The Storied Voices of MMA: The Best Commentators
Every sport needs someone to tell the narrative. Whether they are up in the gantry of a stadium or sitting ringside, MMA needs people with an expert understanding of the sport to describe the action as it happens. So, which commentators are the best when it comes to enriching the product?
Whether you like Joe Rogan, his podcast, or his political viewpoints – you can’t deny that he colors the MMA experience with his entertaining commentary on the fights as they happen. Despite working on the product for many years, he’s never had his excitement dimmed as he is always animated and provides enthusiasm with his vocal performances. Back at UFC 109, he infamously described the incident when one of the cornermen spilled a bucket of ice all over the fight surface – what could have been regarded as content more entertaining than the actual fight.
Even if you didn’t know at the time, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard Mauro Ranallo call a fight. The Canadian has worked for a plethora of different institutions covering Showtime’s Boxing coverage, numerous WWE events, and most famously, worked within MMA with organizations like RIZIN, Pride FC, and, chiefly, Bellator. Ranallo does the play-by-play while also heightening the excitement with his own vigor for the action, which produces an incredibly inviting audio for anyone listening to his comms. He’s shown some hosting abilities too, having kicked off the Bellator 300 main card with a heartfelt speech about how the company had grown.
Laura Sanko has been one of the backstage personalities for the UFC for multiple years now, having worked extensively as an analyst, an interviewer, and recently becoming a PPV commentator at UFC 293. That made her the first woman to provide comms on a UFC PPV since 1993, when Kathy Long called parts of UFC 1. Sanko draws on her own professional career experience to add detail to her punditry. In the post-event press conference, Dana White said he would be sanctioning more PPV jobs for her, even calling her ‘a rockstar’ in the process.
British MMA fans can often feel like they’ve been sold a bad deal when they consider they’ve got to stay up ridiculously late for the major fight cards, etc. Well, at least for a time, they had the sound of Dan Hardy to narrate the UFC action. He often paired with John Gooden to make an all-English comms team. Hardy offered technical grit and excitement as he was once a fighter himself in the promotion. Despite being released from the UFC in 2021, he’s still very much active in the MMA editorial world, working as a co-host on the DAZN MMA Show.
Affectionately known as ‘the Voice,’ the Australian commentator Michael Schiavello is known as one of the best commentators to never work on the UFC promotion. He’s famed for working on projects for AXS TV, King of the Cage, XFC, and Invicta Fighting Championship. However, he is more recently celebrated for illuminating the action with Singaporean fight promotion, ONE Championship. His accolades have led him to be nominated for several MMA broadcast awards, as he calls the action with ferocious charisma and accuracy. His ability to think on the fly and deliver verbal stimulation has attracted many of MMA’s superstars to want to work with him, having interviewed top talent like Tito Ortiz, Alistair Overeem, and even Dana White. Joe Rogan has even said that he would like to commentate with him in the future. That would surely get MMA News Sites talking!
‘Big’ John McCarthy
While first seen as the man in the middle of fights, ‘Big’ John McCarthy worked for the UFC as a referee from 1993 to 2018, as he started back at UFC 2. After stepping down from that role, he joined Bellator as a media personality, interviewing and commentating on the in-ring action. Unlike former fighters, as an ex-ref, McCarthy holds a unique insight into the action taking place in the cage, which is an exceptional USP for the Bellator product. In addition to this, he also works on the ‘Weighing In’ podcast with Josh Thomson, where he delivers MMA Breaking News.
Okay, Mike Goldberg might not be synonymous with commentary excellence, but he’s most certainly one of the most familiar voices throughout the MMA world. His career with the UFC lasted the best part of 20 years, from 1997 to 2016. Sure, he made several unusual remarks, like calling Ronda Rousey a rockstar while she was taking serious damage from Holly Holm and stating that a short fighter had the same grappling skills as Michael Jordan, but these added a lovable characteristic to his comms. However, he didn’t get the same kind of love from NFL fans during his short stint in their booths.
The UFC commentary team wouldn’t be complete without Jon Anik. He often complements Joe Rogan as he offers unadulterated excitement and passion for the sport to raise energy levels, as well as delivering interesting statistical information. He’s also known to deliver sound statements in the heat of the moment. Who can forget the time when he stated: ‘Amanda Nunes has turned the mixed martial arts world on its axis!’ after she defeated Cris Cyborg?
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