“I did a three-foot aerial jump. I hit the ground and whipped off a lightning-fast 180-degree turn…”
The expectation would be that some form of gymnast, surfer, snowboarder or maybe an extreme X Games athlete is describing a stunt they’d performed.
In reality, those words come from a man whose voice has created a sporting spectacle of its own, worthy of such an athletic description. Introduced as the 'Veteran Voice of the Octagon', Bruce Buffer has continued a story of success and devotion into every career he’s pursued. From marketing to management, the ventures of the Montvale native have culminated in the position of announcer for the largest mixed martial arts promotion in the world: the UFC.
But while most associate the name with charismatic introductions and a voice in the Octagon as powerful as the punches thrown after it, beyond the cage is an ardent MMA enthusiast, a world-rated poker player and an esteemed businessman. Despite only beginning MMA announcing in 1995, the 62-year-old has a vast history of training and involvement in the sport from a young age, which has fostered a passion for fighting.
"I’m a fan first and an announcer second," told us. "I’ve been in martial arts since I was 12. My passion is probably beyond most, and I think I would venture to say that if you watch the way I announce in the Octagon, I cannot fake that.” Buffer pinpointed the need to defend himself after growing up in areas of Dallas and Philadelphia rife with school rivalries and turf wars. “Wherever we lived, the kids were always pretty territorial. ‘This is our turf: you’re either in or out.'"
A driving force behind Bruce’s early defence development came through his father, Joseph Buffer. A former marine during World War II and the Korean War, and a trainer to young soldiers, it’s no surprise he encouraged his sons to be prepared for confrontation. Although a salesman by trade, his son described him as ‘so much more’, “He taught my older brother, Brian, and me basic self-defence moves at an early age,” Buffer described. "Good thing, too, because the first time I was jumped was at age six.”
Attending a tough school in Philadelphia at the time, Buffer comes from a generation where physical toughness was encouraged. “When we were living in Dallas, we had a gym teacher who encouraged us boys to settle our differences by pulling on some boxing gloves and taking swings at each other.”
But Buffer said a certain scrap ignited his desire for martial arts. “The day I got pummelled in the face, something went wrong. This kid worked me over. I thought, ‘It’s never happening again. I’m going to learn how to defend myself for real.’" After that, Buffer re-committed himself to Judo. Having already learnt boxing, Buffer went on to earn a black belt in Tang Soo Do, as well as develop a love for kickboxing. This layer of MMA experience and skill behind the UFC’s voice is something many fans are initially unaware of.
Buffer’s electric introductions only become more awe-inspiring once the passion the man has for the sport is connected to his sound. His success, however, can’t be streamlined into his announcing. From his late teens, Buffer pursued a career as a successful businessman, a journey which was triggered by a school ski trip of all things. While at high school, Bruce’s mother funded the trip for her son, despite living through a time of financial uncertainty.