Mike Goldberg discusses transition from hockey to the UFC, says he understands ‘what the UFC machine is all about’

Ethan Miller

UFC play-by-play commentator Mike Goldberg sat down with Sportsnet’s Showdown Joe to discuss a variety of topics, including his transition from hockey to the UFC, his hectic work schedule as well as his relationships with partner Joe Rogan, as well as UFC President Dana White.

Mike Goldberg's voice has been synonymous with the Ultimate Fighting Championship for the past 17 years. He has been the play-by-play commentator for the organization since 1997, and has since taken part in the majority of the UFC's broadcasts.

In an extensive sit-down with Sportsnet's Showdown Joe, Goldberg breaks down his transition from hockey to the UFC, starting with how he fell in love with broadcasting from watching a Jerry Lewis telethon.

"I got started in broadcasting because when I was young I was a singer and I was a Hockey player, so I was an athlete and a performer." Goldberg said. "In 8th grade, I went to Cleveland, and it was the local act for the Jerry Lewis telethon, and our little group from high school got to sing three or four songs. So I sang on channel 8; it was the local cut in on the Labor Day telethon, and after we did that, we watched him do the 11 o'clock news.  I'll never forget the experience of watching this dude read the teleprompter doing sports, and I'm like ‘that's what I'm gonna do.'

So I went on and I played college hockey and then I finally said, ‘you know what? I am going to go do this TV thing.'  I got an internship a radio station in my freshman year at Miami [University]. I was fortunate because in 8th grade, I knew what I wanted to do for a living."

With a potential career as a hockey commentator, fans would be surprised to know that it was Goldberg's connections in hockey that introduced him to the SEG-owned UFC.

"[The transition to the UFC was] 100 percent from hockey. One of my producers was Bruce Connell, and he is still my producer today. Bruce had been on the ESPN crew for years. Bruce liked my work, and his family company had the rights to the broadcast of the UFC through SEG. So long story short, Bruce calls and says, ‘Goldie, I have a gig for you. It's in Japan. They'll pay you X amount of dollars but you have to take a jiu-jitsu class.' All I heard was ‘Japan' and ‘gig' and that was it - Ultimate Japan in 1997. "

While Goldberg's job may appear straightforward to some, the opposite couldn't be truer. He admits that his workweeks are "crazy," as a regular fight card requires a significant amount of research and preparation for each fighter, even if it is a fighter he has commentated on frequently.

"It is about studying the fighters and reading the articles. It's talking to the trainers, talking to the fighters and doing all that homework.  I don't care if I have seen GSP fight 20 times before. He is doing something different this time.  If they are not, then they are not evolving, so they are always doing something different. They are always bringing somebody else in. They always bring a different sparring partner in setting it up. "

Apart from his play-by-play duties, Goldberg is responsible for the organization's other "moving parts," which include mentioning sponsors on the broadcast, and voice-overs for trailers and features.

"The other part of it is the PPV, and there are so many moving parts in our show. It's getting our sponsorship stuff right, so it is a crazy time.  Plus, there is a ton of stuff to voice.  I'm voicing combo features three weeks in advance so that they can get the editing process under way. "

While Goldberg once had to go to a studio for each voice-over feature, advancements in technology have allowed him to record the audio in the comfort of his own home using audio production software such as Pro Tools.

UFC's color commentator Joe Rogan shares Goldberg's workload during the show; and while Goldberg believes their respective jobs are a "hybrid" of the two styles of commentating, it is their friendship and mutual respect that creates their unique chemistry during a broadcast.

"The true genuine friendship and respect that we have for each other is why our chemistry is so good. I mean, there are guys on TV - really good guys - that fake it. They don't even talk to each other. That is not the case with Joe and I. There is a mutual respect. There is a caring for his family. There is a caring for my family.

We're friends and we respect each other. People have always talked about our chemistry because it's sincere."

As Goldberg has been with the UFC since their self-proclaimed dark ages, he is in awe at the incredible achievements that Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White have achieved over the past decade.

"The men who lead us are brilliant. Lorenzo Ferttita is brilliant at what he does. Dana White has been able to be this figure and this voice, where he is brash at times, truthful at times, mad at times, but people gravitate to the true passion that Dana has. Dana is the biggest fan that we have of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. That is pretty cool."

Through his 13 years working for the ZUFFA-owned UFC, Goldberg believes he understands the underlying "story lines" that the promotion wants to push, as well as what the "UFC machine is all about."

"I've learned over the years with Dana what he is trying to push.  I understand, from a promotional point of view, what story lines we want to sell.  I understand the topics that he wants to hit and I try to hit those topics in the right way.  I've worked for him for so long so I understand what the UFC machine is all about."

The long-time voice of the UFC has no intentions of retiring anytime soon, as he is still "having fun" and is "energized" by the sport and its passionate fans.

"I wouldn't want it to end anytime soon. I feel great. I am energized by the sport. I am energized by the fans. I'm energized by my relationship with Joe.

What else am I going to do?"

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