[An interview with]

Bruce Buffer

Jun 24, 2011

“There’s no difference between us and the golden arches of McDonald’s. This is what America was built on: private enterprise, and people that want to be the two percent out there, not just the ninety-eight percent that think about it, but the two percent that get it done, and make the most money in the world.” 

The American dream of prosperity and success may remain elusive to the majority, but for Bruce Buffer it was achieved through three V’s: Vision, Voice, and Violence.

Bruce Buffer is currently working as the announcer of one of the world’s fastest rising sports, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). His job is to announce the fighters, and hype up the crowd. To this effect he is a master. With his main catchphrases, “It’s Time!” and “We are Live!” Bruce Buffer has become a great showman. He has reached a high level of success and fame, and in my opinion has one of the best jobs in the world. However, it’s understanding the journey, and destiny aspect of Bruce’s story that really makes it fascinating.

Born into an Italian family in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1957, Bruce Buffer has worked harder than anybody to accomplish his dreams.

To begin, one must understand that Bruce Buffer is a born entrepreneur; he has grand visions of success, and then achieves them. Bruce has been plugging away at various business adventures for years: he’s owned health, and nutrition companies, security companies, and telemarking companies. He is a business man by profession. He also worked as a motivational speaker, and has given seminars to thousands of people. However, it was in his 30s that a chance meeting with his estranged half brother, Michael Buffer, would change his life forever.

You see, Bruce’s brother Michael was already making a huge name for himself in the world of boxing. Whether you know it or not, you know Bruce’s brother. He coined the phrase, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” This phrase has deeply permeated pop-culture across America. Upon meeting Michael, it was decided that he would begin to manage his career, and thus began Bruce’s active involvement in the fighting business.

Through a close relationship managing his brother’s career, Bruce began to get the announcing itch himself. Having agreed to stay away from boxing, Bruce weaseled his way into an up and coming sporting organization called the UFC. Following a very brief stint managing a UFC fighter – Scott “The Pitbull” Ferrazzo – Bruce convinced the organization to let him announce their fights.  The rest is history.

When I started the site I wanted to interview people who I found to be fascinating and lived lives worth discussing. Bruce Buffer is a candidate that fills this perfectly. I’ve watched Bruce announce many fights, and every time I did I always wondered, “How did that man get that job?” So, what else could I do but find out.

There is much I WANNA KNOW about Bruce Buffer and I had the privilege of speaking to him on the phone from his office in California.

From his childhood, to intellectual property rights, to what to do in a street fight, to Jennifer Lopez’s assets, we cover it all.

Ryan Kohls: I’d like to know a bit of your back story to understand how you ended up where you are now. To start, you were born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What was your childhood like?

Bruce Buffer: I had a wonderful childhood. I have, and had, fantastic parents. I lost my father three years ago. My mom is still alive, and they’ve been huge influences in my life. We’re a very tight Italian family.

I was conceived in Las Vegas, and dropped off in Oklahoma. Nine months later I moved to Dallas, Texas where I spent about four years of my life. Great experience there; southwest upbringing. Then I went to Philadelphia and spent five years. The back to Dallas for another four or five years, then back to Philadelphia again. So, those two areas were great. At 15 my family moved me to Malibu, California, which was an amazing culture shock.

I had experiences as a kid that were great in Texas, and some rougher ones in Philadelphia, then I moved to Malibu: the land of movie stars and mystery. There were these beautiful blonde girls, and surfing. I always wanted to learn how to surf, so all I could think about was losing my virginity, and how to surf at 15. I learned how to surf first, and then everything followed its natural course.

RK: Fighting is a big part of your heritage. Can you tell me a bit about the lineage of fighting in the Buffer family?

Johnny Buff

BB: I never had a chance to meet the man, but my father’s father is a man named Johnny Buff. He’s a very well known boxer from the flyweight, bantam weight division. Bert Sugar, a big journalist in boxing, calls him the greatest fighter of 1921.

My Dad was a Golden Glove fighter, and came from the streets of New York. Grew up a very tough street kid, fighting throughout all his life. He made a choice to go into the Armed Forces during World War II, and served in the Marines in that war and Korea. He basically continued on as a hand-to-hand combat instructor. So, I grew up with a Marine drill sergeant, and he was teaching me aspects of street fighting when I was literally like four.

I went to Philadelphia at the age of six, and it was a tough school. It was a great learning experience. I didn’t have a silver spoon in my mouth, even when we lived in Malibu. We worked together as a family growing up, and had a great life coming up. Taught me a lot of culture, and things about life that I still hold dear.

RK: You’re a trained fighter, a fact I wasn’t aware of until recently. I think there’s a lot of people out there who don’t realize you can kick serious ass.  

BB: Well, you know there’s always a tougher nut, and there’s always a faster guy. We all like to think we’re tough, and we are, but all I can say is that I stand up for what I believe in, and I stand up when I’m disrespected. I’m not interested in going into street fights anymore, and all that kind of stuff. Bottom line is, I’m a lover not a fighter, but I’m all about fighting, and I’m all about the sport of mixed martial arts. I’ve seen a lot of fighting in my life, inside and outside the cage.

RK: Which disciplines are you trained in specifically?

BB: I’ve crossed trained a lot. My first discipline was Judo, and I achieved a green belt in my early teens. I really liked judo a lot.

The best experience for me was kickboxing. I wanted to fight for real, and I wanted to go stand toe to toe. Like I was accustomed to, you either get knocked out or you win, and I wanted to get really good at it. I trained in that steadily from 24 to 32.

Young Buffer

RK: Did you ever compete?

BB: In the amateurs. I never went Pro. I never had a pro fight, always wanted to have one. I was too busy running businesses, and leading my life, but I trained four or five days a week. Took on the occasional smoker, and definitely a lot of serious two to three rounders in our own dojo.

One day we took all comers for a street festival, and they went one round with us. There were only three of us that were willing to do it, and we did it off and on for a five hour period. it was probably one of the dumbest things I ever did in my life, but it certainly was memorable.

RK: So when did the shift happen from wanting to fight, to using your voice to announce fights?

BB: My voice was always there to an extent. I’ve trained well into a couple thousand people in the area of sales, and marketing. I’ve owned telemarketing companies, I’ve owned nutritional companies, a security company; I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 19.

I was giving motivational speeches in my 20s on health, nutrition and making money. I still do that today. As a matter of fact I have a big seminar here in the last three days of July by the LA airport. People are coming from all across the country and Canada to talk to me about their companies branding and marketing efforts. So, I still do that, and I was always used to speaking in front of crowds.

Michael Buffer

The real turn of the screw was when I began managing my brother, Michael Buffer. We met roughly 24 years ago. We never grew up together, we never knew each other existed. It’s a story that will be in my book that comes out next year. Random House is publishing my memoirs.

I always wanted to be an announcer after taking over Michael’s career and managing him, but I agreed I wouldn’t do boxing. There’s a reason because obviously nobody but him was making any real money in boxing, and he was making a full time income. My loyalty was to my client, and I thought something will come along me, and I eventually worked my way into the UFC. It was not an easy thing.
I got my brother to do the UFC, and we had so many other things going on with WCW and boxing that he couldn’t continue to do it. Then they hired another announcer, but I worked my way into the organization by managing a fighter Scott “The Pitbull” Ferrazzo. It was UFC 8, it was my first announcement of the UFC, I did the preliminaries. Then I did UFC 10. Then I co-starred on the TV show Friends, and we made a deal on the set that I would announce every UFC from that point forward.

RK: I know you’ll be covering it in your book, but could you tell me about more about your relationship with your brother, Michael Buffer?

BB: In a nutshell basically we have the same father, we’re half brothers, and we never grew up together. I was actually 31 when we met, he was in his 40s. It was a pretty amazing experience, something that’s very hard to relate to.

RK: Even though you’re Michael’s manager, has he given you advice towards your announcing career? 

BB: Actually, no. I’m the one who runs the business, and he’s great at being the announcer, and the icon legend that is, and creating what he did.

But, he gave me one bit of advice that was actually the best advice, that I’d give anybody no matter what you’re doing in life, and that is watch yourself on video tape and listen to yourself. It’s probably one of the most painful, and educational processes you’ll ever go through. It’s a great way to get better at what you do. I don’t care if you’re playing the drums, announcing, or out there playing baseball. Watch yourself on video.

RK: A lot of people look at you and your brother and think you two have the best jobs in the world. What do you think about that comment?

One sure sign of success: your own bobblehead

BB: I used to look at Michael when I first started managing him, and part of the attraction of managing him was that I thought he had the best job in the world. I have the best job in the world, not just in my announcing for the UFC, but in the way I’ve designed my entire life because I only do what I’m passionate about. I’ve been very lucky to make the right decisions, and reach the success levels that I’ve been able to do. Success is all in perception, you could be the best bus boy, or the best CEO, just try and be good at what you do.

I also have a system: I always think about making the people around me money, if I have everybody around me money it will come back to me. If everyone around me has the best experience, most productive experience, it will all come back to me. That’s the way I look at it.

RK: Is there anything about your job that is not so great?

BB: Well, I think the travelling is probably the one all of us have to work around and deal with. When you’re going to Abu Dhabi and you’ve got to give up a day and a half to get there, you’re going to Australia and you lose a day, and then you get there and have jet lag, and I’m running all the other businesses I have to pay attention to during the week: that’s probably the only thing that is difficult about the job. You become accustomed to it, and it’s part of the job. It’s what you do. It’s like a fighter who has to train, if he wants to fight he has to train. If I want this job, and I wanna do what I wanna do, and have the ability to travel the world, see my favourite sport, sit in the best seat, get paid very well, and have this incredible position inside the octagon, I got nothing to complain about bro.

Besides, don’t cry for me I’m flying business class, it’s all good.

RK: You’re a lucky guy, economy class can be a real drag sometimes.

BB: (laughs) Not like I haven’t flown that a thousand times. I’ve stayed in roach-coached motels, and I’ve paid my dues. Trust me.

RK: I’ve always wondered what the preparation is like before you announce a fight. Could you tell me a bit about your routine?

BB: I have a very simple ritual. I get up in the morning, I get a good workout in, a steam if it’s available – usually that’s mainly in Vegas – a power breakfast, a little mediation, finish my cards, and then walk down. Usually I’ll sing a little Sinatra to myself just to get my intonation down.

When I walk into the arena the bottom line is to feed off the energy: the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd. I never rehearse, I do what overtakes me when I say, “Ladies and Gentlemen.” That’s the way I work.

RK: Did you or your brother ever take voice lessons, or have voice coaches?

BB: Nope. The only voice coach I had was my old man. My old man had a set of lungs that would make you come to the dinner table as well as scare the hell out of you.

The Hype Man getting high

RK: How did your main catchphrases “We Are Live,” and “It’s time!” come about? 

BB: Well I’ve always said “It’s time” to myself because every day to me is a day that I start out my life. I don’t live on my laurels. I’m only as good as the performance I give today. So when I ever tackle anything it’s always “it’s time” because no matter what happened before this is it.

“We Are Live” is to create the excitement. If you notice when I’m on these shows on Spike, I’ll have a certain intonation for “We Are Live.” When the Pay Per View starts it’s a bammer, you’re setting the mood, you’re creating the excitement, and the crowd has become very in tuned, and somewhat Pavlovian when I say these two phrases. It really helps generate a lot of energy in the arena.

RK: What’s the emotion like as you’re saying those phrases? How would you describe that experience to all of those who have never been inside the Octagon?

BB: It’s indescribable to a large extend. You need to be standing there and feeling the energy, and the power waves coming at you from 15,000 people, much less 55,000 in Toronto recently.

I’ll see pictures where I don’t even realize that I’m three or four feet off the ground, or doing turns and stuff like that. It’s like, “Wow, I’m really into it.” I kinda block out the audience. I really just try and concentrate on the fighters when I’m doing my thing.

RK: Will we ever see the Buffer 720?

BB: I can’t say you never will, I can’t say that you will. I can just honestly tell you that I set the bar with the 360. But, I’m not an acrobat bro, I’m an announcer. I definitely give 150 percent but I never say never. I’m 54 years old, I can’t be doing backflips when I’m 60, or maybe I can who knows.

RK: Maybe you could throw a mini-trampoline into the mix?

BB: See the problem, or maybe benefit of me, is that I’m always game.

RK: The legal protection of your phrases, and Michael’s “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble,” has stirred up a bit of controversy. How do you respond to people who think that despite your wealth you’re picking on people who want to use, and enjoy your phrases?

BB: The only people that are contending it, if anybody, are the people who are stealing it, or want to steal it. Otherwise, what is there to be contending about? We own it, Michael created it, I’m the Sheriff of the rumble, we’re partners, we market products, we make money off those products. We do good old fashioned American business. There’s no difference between us and Nike with “Just Do It.” It’s exactly the same thing. There’s no difference between us and the golden arches of McDonald’s. This is what America was built on: private enterprise, and people that want to be the 2 percent out there not just the 98 percent that think about it, but the 2 percent that get it done and make up the success ratio and make the most money in the world.

Now, as far as us being rich. Have we made money? Of course we have. If I quit work today, am I going to be able to live my lifestyle for 25 years without making another dollar? I doubt it. I’ll probably have to go back to work in about 10 years, 8 years, whatever, who knows.

When you’re going for something, and you create something that means you have entrepreneurial blood, or you have the blood of a winner. You want to make things happen. You’re not a follower, but the world needs followers. The world is like a pyramid, the two percent makes up the top, but the base is actually just as important as the top. So, we all fill our space. That’s why I said earlier do what you want to do to the best of your ability.

Now, getting back to a direct answer to your question.  Let’s take the rumble phrase, and I’ll give you an example of what we face. One time in a state, I wont’ tell you which state, I had a pending deal for a very nice six figure contract regarding the phrase, and the licensing. It went down the tube because they found out that a car agency in the local area had taken his phrase, with his voice, and played it at the beginning of TV and radio spots for the last month. Here we are in negotiations, and here we are getting saturated by somebody who did not pay a licensing fee, nor did I allow them to do it, that are interfering with our ability to make an income. What do you do? Do you let them go on? Do you let them steal from you? No. You cease and desist, and then many times I ask for the licensing fee I would have charged had I allowed it. They need to pay it.

If my attorney calls up and he says we have one case where they made a mistake, they haven’t made any money, they just started and are a Mom and Pop in whatever state or city, I’m not going to go out and crush these people but I’m definitely going to cease and desist them from using it. I have a heart too, but I’m also running a business.

RK: I suppose it’s a tough issue to fully comprehend for those of us without any intellectual property rights. 

BB: I don’t want to call the people a bad word but they’re coming from a level of ignorance. Educate yourself before you criticize, or do something and understand the process.

RK: Is your voice, or Michael’s, insured? 

BB: No. I have been asked to do that, but I think it’s a gimmick more than anything else.


RK: I was just remembering that sometimes celebrities like to insure their most precious assets, like Jennifer Lopez who insured her ass for 6 billion. 

BB: (laughs) Let me ask you a question. What could possibly happen to J-Lo’s ass? It gets stolen? She loses it? It breaks? It’s gonna take a lot to break that beautiful bum. It’s a publicity move, bro.

You can insure anything if you pay the price. Lloyd’s of London will insure your left toe. The bottom line is, is it really worth the price? I’m all about making money, not giving it away to other people.

RK: I’ve noticed that some announcers like to repeat the last name of the fighter during their introductions. What’s the deal with that?

BB: I know Ed Darrian used to do that. Some of the old UFC announcers copied that style. I really can’t answer that. You know, it’s like people copy other people, or they try to be original, it’s not rocket science. Let’s get real. It’s announcing.

With me it’s not about what I say, it’s how I say it. That’s how I work. Otherwise, I think everybody tries to copy the great Michael Buffer by wanting to do that poised style. Joe Martinez has probably watched a million different videos of my brother because he does exactly what he does to the T. It cracks me up, and it’s wrong in many ways. It’s like, get your own style. Joe’s got a great voice and I think he’s a great announcer but I giggle sometimes when I realize. I’m waiting for him to do a 180 like me.

RK: Did you ever think that you would rise to this high of a status? 

The Buffer Brand

BB: Yes. I always did. I stuck with it, and always believed it would. I sold two companies put the money in the bank and told my brother I was going to make him richer and more famous then he ever dreamed. I said I was going to properly trademark this five word phrase, make it part of American culture, produce video games and toys. His question to me was, “how are you going to do that?” and I said, “I don’t know. I’ll figure it out.” So when I believe in something I stick with it. It’s part of the reason that I have the position that I have today.

RK: Who would you say are the top 3 fighters in the UFC?

BB: So many fighters I can’t call the top 3. I’ll give you three great fighter’s. They’re very obvious of course. Anderson Silva. George St. Pierre. Jose Aldo. All the champions are just incredible fighter’s.

Our heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. He’s incredible. When he fights Junior Dos Santos I’m going to be glued to my seat. I’m just so pumped for that fight.

RK: I was going to ask, who wins that fight: Velasquez or Dos Santos?

BB: Whenever anyone asks me that I always say, “may the best man win.”

RK: My last questions is this: if I ever have the misfortune of getting in a street fight, what advice do you have for me?

BB: Get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. I’ll tell you one thing about street fights: they’re completely unpredictable. They can get so ugly, to the point that someone can die, or get seriously hurt. I’ve seen all of the above. You can get stabbed in this day and age. You can get shot. I’ve seen all of the above. Street fights can happen anywhere, anytime, and doesn’t have to be in a slum for you to get seriously hurt or put in the hospital.

Do not put people you love in danger by acting like some Macho whatever. But, if someone gets in your face and they’re threatening you or attacking you, you gotta do what you gotta do, bro. But, don’t go jumping into it.

The old story is if someone comes at you and gets in your three feet space and they put their hand on you, you do the old fashioned punch them right between the eyes. Just punch them as hard as you can, bust their nose, show their blood. Some of the biggest, toughest guys fold when they see blood. My advice to you is perception, and realizing a situation before it’s going to happen. Don’t put oil on the fire. Do yourself a favour, live another day and get away.

For More Information on Bruce:

1) Check out his main website: bufferzone.net
2) Listen to his radio show “It’s Time” on the Sherdog Radio Network
3) Go watch the UFC live, and see the magic in person


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