Saturday, April 7, 2007

It's time: UFC announcer Bruce Buffer whips up crowds, fighters in the Octagon

By Neil Davidson

HOUSTON (CP) - Bruce Buffer is living his own dream in the Octagon.

Buffer is the slick, animated announcer at UFC events. He's also the half-brother of boxing announcer Michael Buffer, known worldwide for his trademark "Let's Get Ready to Rumble" call.

Bruce Buffer has his own presence in the ring. Blessed with a booming voice, he can turn a name into a theatrical calling card. Randy (The Natural) Couture's last name, for example, becomes Coutuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuure when Buffer is on the job.

It serves to whip up the already juiced mixed martial arts crowd, especially when Buffer bends low, and spins towards Couture - pointing to the fighter as the introduction rolls off his honeyed tongue.

Buffer, 49, knows how to work a room. At a television show, at a U.S. marine base in Miramar, Calif., in December, he scored points with the all-military audience by throwing out Semper Fi (the marine motto Semper Fidelis or always faithful).

He also has a sense of style. At Friday's outdoor weigh-in for UFC 69, the only people not feeling the heat under the bright Texas sunshine were the scantily clad ring girls. Buffer was in suit and tie.

As an announcer, Buffer is equally smooth. If you can pronounce Dokonjonosuke Mishima before a live TV audience, you can do just about anything. Phonetic spellings help, as do the backup cue cards in his hand.

Some names are easier than others to Buffer-ize. Matt Hughes becomes a billowing Huuuuuuuuuuuughes, in the hands of Buffer. But even he has trouble with the like of Mike (Quick) Swick.

"I love Mike. But his name Swick. It doesn't roll off your tongue," Buffer laments.

But give Buffer a shot at "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy Tito Ortiz" and the ensuing introduction is like a seven-course meal. "It's like magic," he says with relish.

For Buffer it's more than an introduction. It's a chance to pump up both the fighters and crowd. The way he sees it, his craft combines excitement, anticipation and even romance and flavour.

He has his own signature line, booming "It's Time" when the main event rolls around.

Mistakes are rare. But Buffer remembers a recent card when the director was in his ear, screaming at him to speed it up because the show was running late. Somehow Jorge (El Conquistador) Rivera came from Milford, Conn, instead of Milford, Mass.

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