The veteran voice of the Octagon, Bruce Buffer appears on Front Row Seat and shares his passion for combat sports. His successful career led him to be a world renowned ambassador for the UFC. Buffer also talks about being a serial entrepreneur and connecting with his long lost half-brother.
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Episode # 7
Episode Title: Bruce Buffer
Guest Information: Bruce Buffer is an international sports and entertainment announcer, known as the voice of MMA for the last 26 years. He is often called the “veteran voice of the Octagon” and at the beginning of every fight he uses the catchphrase “It’s Time!” Bruce is the half-brother of fellow ring announcer Michael Buffer and is the President and CEO of their company, The Buffer Partnership.
- Bruce as a young martial artist
- Branding and rise of the UFC
- Connecting and partnering with his half-brother Michael Buffer
- Co-founding MILLIONS.co
- Sacrifices and successes in UFC
- Bruce's shares memorable UFC fights
- Injury inside the Octagon cage
- Puncher's Chance Bourbon
Bruce: I never know what I'm going to do till I do it. I make sure I know the names of the fighters but I don't rehearse. I get in there and I feel the energy of the crowd. I let it fly. And that's what works for me. Every night I walk in that Octagon, I got to prove to myself the powers that would be you, the fans, the fighters, my mom, that I deserve this job.
Shane: Hello, I'm your host, Shane Mercer and welcome to Front Row Seat, part of the MILLIONS Podcast Network. Remember to like, subscribe, download, follow us on all the socials at frontrow.pod. Our guest today needs no introduction, especially if you're an MMA fan. He is the legendary veteran voice of the Octagon, and the man who coined the term, It's Time! Bruce Buffer, welcome to the show.
Bruce: Hi, Shane. How are you doing buddy?
Shane: Hey, great, man. So glad to have you on and to be able to chat with you here. I want to get into a little bit about how you got into broadcasting, got into being the veteran voice of the Octagon. But first I want to go all the way back to your early days in getting into mixed martial arts because a lot of people might not know but you used to actually train as a fighter.
Bruce: Yeah, actually I've been a martial artist since I was 12. My first start was Judo and then I moved from Philadelphia to Malibu and I met some of Chuck Norris’ black belt students and fighting partners and I got into the art of Tang Soo Do, which is the Korean style that Chuck started when he was in the Air Force. From there I studied different arts but I trained a lot. We trained, we fought, all I did was trained martial arts and surf every week, that's all I did.
And then I wanted to fight for real because like a lot of us my own experiences in street fights and beach fights and everything, the point fighting was not really the most exciting for me, although it's great, Karate Kid all the whole bit, I have no problem with it. I think it's wonderful and it's great for people to do that, but I wanted to fight for real. So I got into the world of kickboxing and I got very heavily into that for about 12 years. Then I had to stop due to concussions and stuff as far as fighting is concerned. But I love the martial arts and that's why when the UFC came on the scene I knew that was for me.
Shane: You stopped kickboxing, what was it? Around the age in your early 30s, right?
Bruce: Basically around 32.
Shane: Where did you see your career going then when you left the world of sport fighting? Did you know at that time that you were going to have a future in the sport still?
Bruce: Basically it was around that time, during that time that I met my long lost half-brother, I never grew up with Michael Buffer and that I took over, I sold two companies and I took over his management and became his partner and trademarked the famous five words of air, Let's Get Ready to Rumble. And then started building the brand with him as he built his career. And that was my main focus back then.
And then the UFC came on the scene and I got Michael involved in the UFC to announce it first and then I couldn't continue because after three events we had a big contract with WCW wrestling back then, which is huge. Michael loves wrestling. Over the course of a year and a half, a lot of trial and error. After announcing the prelims at one show and UFC 10, the entire show, I got called into co-star in Friends, the TV show and when I did that, I used that as a bartering tool to convince the owner to let me become the steady Octagon announcer for the UFC because I had the media contacts which they did and did not have and people were scared of UFC back then. So I said, listen, I will help you build this brand. That's what I am. I'm a brand builder, but I need to grow with you as the announcer. You know, I need to just grow as the announcer and I'll do everything I can to get this out because I think it's going to be the biggest thing in the world of fighting sports.
Shane: Yeah, I mean, and sure enough that's what it became. People don't realize this but yeah you and Michael didn't grow up together.
Shane: You've met each other very late in life. Talk to me about how that happened.
Bruce: Michael started getting really popular in the late ‘90s. When Mike Tyson was making boxing the resurgence and boxing came back, it was the water cooler conversation on a Monday. And what happened was people would stop me and they say, “Hey, is that your brother that goes, let's get ready to rumble?” Like, no, my brother’s Brian, right? And then when I was watching the TV, as big a boxing fan as I was and am, it was again the water cooler conversation on Monday. There were great fights happening every single week. So when I came this debonair looking James Bond style announcer that was changing the world of announcing. I noticed on the screen his last name was Buffer. And I own telemarketing companies in my twenties and my thirties. And I never saw my last name in the phone book because we didn't have the internet back then.
Bruce: So when that happened, I'm like, who is this guy? Everything just started coming up and it all came to fruition.
Shane: So how did you make the final connection?
Bruce: He was doing an event out here in LA. A small LA event at a venue and I had my dad called him and leave his number. Michael called him back, they got together for lunch and it turned out to be his son. Long lost son.
Shane: Wow, was it like an instant relationship after that? Because obviously you guys went on and you formed a business together.
Bruce: That occurred like four years later. We built our friendship, built our relationship and then I started teeter tottering on little tiny things with him here and there. And I realized the potential when I was at a fight, the Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe fight the first time they fought in like 1992 or ‘91. And it was that night that I had the epiphany in Vegas and I went back to my room and I wrote like four or five pages of notes, three pages of notes about what I would do, put them in the basketball courts, football fields, corporate meetings, make video games, toys, trademarked the phrase properly, T-shirts, hats, and nothing had been done. And it all started with that if you're that passionate moment I had at my hotel room instead of going on playing with the girls and playing blackjack and doing what everybody does in Vegas, I just got real serious and I realized that I had to meet with him and I met with him and said, “Basically I'm going to make you richer and more famous than ever dreamed of if you allow me to be your manager and your partner. And let's make this happen. We’ll make history.” And risky business when Tom Cruise said it, you know what the F you got to just go for it.
Shane: Yeah, exactly. And clearly you did. You know something I just learned about you. I had no idea what you're really like a serial entrepreneur.
Bruce: If you look in the dictionary, it should say IE Bruce Buffer. Yeah.
Shane: Yeah. You've had a lot of businesses and on the side you're a card shark, as you just mentioned. You're out there hustling guys at the table.
Bruce: You know, like I said, I'm always honest, but if you play me poker then I'm going to lie through my teeth. I want your money.
Shane: On top of all of that too, you're also the co-founder of this incredible company that is changing the sports landscape and connecting the sports world through technology called MILLIONS.co for transparency sake, of course I work for MILLIONS. Bruce, you’re kind of my boss in some ways here as a co-founder. I want the backstory on how you became a co-founder of MILLIONS and how you hooked up with Matt and Scott Whitaker and Brandon and Adrian?
Bruce: First off they're all great guys, amazing business acumen, pleasure to work with all of them. And I would love to say that was my idea but it was their idea, they came to me. And when they came to me and I realized that MILLIONS.co was the type of company that could help in the first instance when we talked to help fighters learn how to brand themselves and earn income beyond their fight purse that night that they fight and teach them how to build their business and build their brand. This is what I'm all about because let's face it, it's a very lonely business being a fighter. It's one of the most difficult things in the world. They should be making money every way they possibly can and MILLIONS is amazing in the fact that they can turn out a whole merchandise line for any individual sports star or even NCAA college athlete with social media and direct marketing to their fan base whether they have 5,000 fans, 500, or 50,000 or 5 million.
The bottom line is people have fans out there in the professional sports and college sports base and their fans want to be part of them. MILLIONS’ offering the video aspect of cameo style videos to AMA, Ask Me Anything’s to all that stuff to the merchandise line. This is a great way for them to connect with their fans to stay connected because that's really what the secret of business is. One of the many secrets of business, but is to stay connected to your direct marketing audience. And MILLIONS is brilliant at that and they're just knocking down the doors. I'm so proud of this company.
Shane: Was it easy for you to make the decision? Like when they approached you, was it a hard sell for them? Did you have to take some time or was it like, no, I'm all in?
Bruce: No, it wasn't a hard sell. I was all in. Again, their business acumen was so obvious. Everything about it I couldn't argue with anything about it. I'm not the most technical person in the world, but I mean, I understand it. It's easy to operate and, no, it was not hard at all. Not hard at all. It was almost like a no brainer.
Shane: Yeah, well I can tell you, it's a lot of fun to be part of this company. And you talk about connecting with people and connecting with fans and here's the podcast, another great way for athletes to connect with their fans. And I've been able to lucky enough to be able to speak to a lot of them so far and I've got plans to speak to so many more and help them connect with their fans and I'm just having a lot of fun doing it and I hope that they're having fun too.
Bruce: Yeah, of course.
Shane: I want to talk a little bit more about you specifically as an announcer and you talked about the rise of the UFC and it's very well-documented over the last 20, 25 years. I want to do a little Instagram share here, a little screen share with you. And I think you actually posted this yourself and it's just a great way that sort of shows how far you've come over the years. So I'm going to give it a play here.
Bruce: Oh boy.
Shane: And there's the Bruce we all know and love.
Shane: Alright, so there we go. There we have it. I mean, what a great video though, that shows how far you came as an announcer.
Bruce: You know, everything in life is an evolutionary process as I say. There's a perfect example of it right there. We often start somewhere and you learn how to build your tools and strengthen them. And so I look at that, it's like baby Bruce, you know, 26 years ago, 26 plus years ago.
Shane: Yeah, and I mean, baby Bruce was part of the baby UFC –
Bruce: Oh yeah.
Shane: -- because it was very different back then, right?
Bruce: It was a spectacle, you know.
Bruce: Total spectacle. And being a spectacle it needed refinement, it needed rules to be put in place. I realized the potential of it. I stuck with it. Working for short money and losing money and doing the sacrifices that a lot of people had to do to get this off the ground back then. But you know what, it's a proud moment. Something to be very, very proud about.
Shane: You talk about the sacrifices. Tell me one big sacrifice that you personally made along the way to help grow the UFC.
Bruce: Well, you know, it was short money every time I went away. I mean I wasn't really making money, I was losing money, travel and time and everything else. The sacrifices in the time, the sacrifices and believing when it got tough and wondering, are we even going to go anywhere with this? There was a point there when we were called human cockfighting and taken off the air by in demand and only on Direct TV and available to a fraction of the audience that we had. The question mark was, are we going to survive this? Is this going to work? Right?
So I always believed it would. And then when Lorenzo Fertitta and his brother Frank and Dana bought the company, then obviously everything came into fruition. It was all good.
Shane: Did you know at that time when they bought the company that these were going to be the guys to take this to the next level or were you skeptical in any way?
Bruce: No. I knew that they would be the guys to take it to the next level. I definitely knew that because when I knew that when I met them, we all got together for dinner and when we got together for dinner then it was evident to me their passion for what they were doing.
Shane: Yeah, it was just clear to you at that time.
Bruce: Totally clear to me, completely clear to me.
Shane: Over the years, you've got to watch some incredible fights, ringside seats. So I just want to know give me your two most memorable fights that you'll never forget.
Bruce: Very hard to answer that question because I've seen so many, I've seen all the greatest fights in the world over the last 26 years, even in boxing and I can only give you examples of great fights. I can't tell you the two greatest fights.
Shane: Fair enough. But what comes to mind?
Bruce: Obviously Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin at the first ultimate fighter, you know, stands out without any reason, just fantastic. UFC 100 doing the 360 in front of Brock Lesnar on the monumental night. The whole night stands out. Watching Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Zhang Weili going at it. That fight stands. I can go on and on and on and on and on. So many… Randy Couture's brawls with Vitor Belford in the early days. You name it. It's just it's impossible to say… every time I see one that's the greatest fight, boom. I see another one that's the greatest fight. You see what I'm saying?
Shane: Yeah. Absolutely. Okay well here's one that I know that you'll never forget because you actually suffered a pretty serious personal injury inside the cage.
Bruce: I was at a poker tournament the week before and I got up during the poker tournament and when I was walking I hit a dip in the carpet and rolled my ankle. I could not stand on my leg the next morning. I had to go get a bunch of blood drawn out of the ankle, went to the day 2 of the tournament on crutches, wind up getting third place winning like $30,000 and then not being able to stand up on my leg. And here's the biggest event coming in history, 45,000 people in Canada sold out In 20 minutes and I can't stand up. So I managed to get there, worked on pure adrenaline, was able to operate on Saturday. Did the jump, did the turn, did everything I normally do and then during Georges’ introduction when I said Georges St-Pierre he lunges out as he normally does and I bunny hop back about a foot and a half like I normally do and my ankle, my bad ankle wobbled and my knee blew. I severed my ACL right at that moment but I didn't fall, thank God.
I managed to hold it up. I went over to Herb Dean, stuck my microphone under his arm like I do during the main events when he's doing this thing and my knees going back and forth and I realized I blew my knee. And then when I get out of the Octagon hopping on one leg, which you can see on TV, John McCarthy comes up, he goes, “I think you just blew your ACL.” Now Stitch Duran puts an ice bag on my knee. What's wrong with that picture? I'm the announcer. Two warriors in the Octagon and I'm sitting there with an ice bag on my knee.
So I had one more fight to announce the winner, I got in. And then being the big stadium it was with was the longest walk ever to get backstage, which was not the perfect timing in that situation. But you know, I went through it, I did it. And then I braced it up for three months, got operated three months later, I was back in the Octagon four weeks later doing my thing.
Shane: You had to get back in there.
Bruce: I had to get back in there.
Shane: Wow man, it's unbelievable to think that you could suffer that kind of an injury doing what you do but you have quite the performance inside the Octagon. Like, I mean, I don't think there's any other announcer out there that's ever done what you do inside an arena or inside a cage or a ring, with all of the movement and the energy that you bring.
Bruce: Well, I don't like to blow my horn, but yeah, you're right.
Bruce: That's my choice to be that way and people try to copy me, like they always copy my brother and they still do, which is an honor. And then they'll try to copy me, which is an honor. But you know, it's like, I always tell everybody, develop your own style.
Bruce: Look at everybody, take pieces from everybody, develop your own style and make it work for yourself.
Shane: Yeah, and that's clearly what you did as we look back, all the way back 25 years ago and saw you in more recent times there. Your style really developed.
Bruce: I never know what I'm going to do till I do it. I make sure I know the names of the fighters, but I don't rehearse. I get in there and I feel the energy of the crowd, I let it fly and that's what works for me. Every night I walk into the Octagon, I got to prove to myself the powers that would be you, the fans, the fighters, my mom, that I deserve this job.
Shane: And speaking of jobs, as we mentioned, you're a serial entrepreneur, the co-founder of MILLIONS, but there's another big business that you've gotten yourself into. The world of bourbon. And I just want to do another quick screen share here with you and you just posted this.
Bruce: Oh yeah.
Shane: I thought that you know, one very cool video. A nice way to mark a memorial day though too, because that's a special drink, right?
Bruce: Yes, that's a Manhattan they were pouring there and Puncher's Chance is so good at their graphics. And the way they make everything I love that little blurb there. But you know what? Puncher's Chance is selling like crazy. We've won 6 gold medals, 3 for taste, 3 for design of the bottle. The Bourbon Spectator just called us the Top 5 Best Sipping Whiskey in America, at the $30 price range, which is a hell of an honor. So I'm breaking down doors with my partners again, another very successful venture. I'm going to build this into a half billion, billion dollar brand within the next five years, it's my goal. And I'm sure the world had to do it the proper way. There you go.
Shane: Wow, little zing there at a UFC fighter.
Bruce: I kid with Conor. Conor's done amazing with his Proper Twelve. Success breeds competition and competition breeds success. So with that being said, we're not in competition, but I want everybody to be successful. Conor has been very successful with his, The Rock is very successful with his tequila, a lot of celebrity brands don't do very well. I'm very happy to say that we're knocking down doors. We're the fastest selling, highest rated young bourbon in America and it's awesome.
Shane: Well I got to give it a try sometime because I haven't seen it at the stores up here in the Toronto area but I definitely want to give it a sip some time.
Bruce: Please do. It'll be coming to Canada hopefully by the end of the year.
Shane: Oh perfect, awesome. Can't wait. Well listen man, I know you've got your own podcast to host. I know you got to get going here, but is there anything else you wanted to mention before we say goodbye?
Bruce: You know, one of the big things that I love doing with my partner Chris in this, we obviously do a lot of cameos, I do a ton of cameos. Father's Day is coming up, ton of cameos for Father's day. At brucebuffer.com people write us and we do championship introductions, birth of babies, we specialize in weddings which we do a ton of, and I do a lot of business videos too which are priced differently of course. We love what we do. We have tears in our eyes in some of the thank you notes and many of the thank you to received and it's great being part of people's special days and special events and I just love doing that. It's a very passionate thing.
Partial proceeds go to charity, animal, military and children's charities. So I like to make people happy.
Shane: You got an energy drink coming out to. What's that called?
Bruce: It's, It's Time.
Shane: It's Time.
Bruce: Soft tested in England. It's made for athletes. You can drink 2, 3 cans a day, no crash. There's no garbage like taurine and the horrible stuff that's in the -- pardon me in many of the other most popular energy drinks. It's not good for you. This is good for you.
Shane: I'm not on the energy drinks and that's part of the reason. So I would definitely be interested in, It’s Time. Awesome. Well, Bruce thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with me. Really appreciate it and hopefully we can connect again soon sometime.
Bruce: Thanks, Shane. And let's keep it up with MILLIONS.co. It's a great company doing a lot of good for a lot of people and I'm just so proud to be a co-founder of MILLIONS.co. It's amazing.
Shane: Hey buddy, awesome. Well, stay in touch. Thanks again. Take care bro.
Bruce: Thank you buddy. Take care.
Shane: Thank you so much for joining me in the Front Row Seat with the veteran voice of the Octagon, Bruce Buffer. Once again, I'm your host, Shane Mercer and this podcast is presented by MILLIONS.co. If you want to interact with Bruce visit MILLIONS.co to shop his merch and get personal videos. You can also find Front Row Seat on MILLIONS to shop our merchandise. Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast on YouTube and follow us on all the socials at frontrow.pod. We'll see you next week with our next special guest as we dive deep and give you the Front Row Seat.