Last week, Ben Nguyen was home in Australia doing his own thing — training, relaxing, doing work around the house — when he got a call “out of the blue” from Rizin FF.
Nguyen, a former UFC flyweight contender who now competes for Rizin, assumed the promotion needed a short-notice replacement for Rizin FF 18, which takes place Sunday at Dolphins Arena in Nagoya, Japan.
Rizin did need someone on short notice, but not for what Nguyen thought.
“Turns out they wanted me to do commentary,” Nguyen told Bloody Elbow. “Doing commentary for Rizin, getting the call for it, it was like, ‘Woah,’ kind of shocking. But I’m more excited than anything. I just want to get in there and do my best.”
Nguyen is scheduled to do color commentary for Sunday’s show alongside play-by-play man Joe Ferraro. The main event of the card is a non-title bout between bantamweight champion Kyoji Horiguchi, whom Nguyen fought in his last bout, and Kai Asakura. Ferraro usually calls Rizin shows with former UFC fighter Frank Trigg, but Trigg is refereeing UFC 241 on Saturday in Anaheim.
Nguyen didn’t think twice before saying yes to the commentary offer. He’s never called a big show before, but has done some commentary work for local shows in Australia. He said he used to call about two events per year.
Nguyen believes he’ll feel pretty comfortable in the role, despite only having a week to prepare, because he has a lot of technical knowledge as an MMA fighter himself. For him, working on his delivery is key.
“Just talking to some of the Rizin staff, I know they chose me because I’m very articulate with my words and speaking, and I guess I’m a smart guy — and I’m really good looking,” Nguyen said. “That’s the most important part.”
Nguyen said he has thought for a while that commentary is something he could do after his fighting career is over, but it wasn’t really on his radar currently.
“It’s something that I kind of imagined myself doing after fighting — maybe do a Dominick Cruz type of role,” he said. ... “I could see myself being a full-time commentary staff person. Hopefully all goes well tomorrow and I get a call back.”
Nguyen knows that the most important part of a commentary role is doing research ahead of the card. He’s worked hard for the past week to learn as much about the competitors as possible. He has also sought out some advice from people who have more experience as a commentator.
“I’ve talked to a couple guys back at the local circuit,” Nguyen said. “The main thing is do your research. You need to find out where these fighters are training at, who their training partners at, what their fighting style is, what they like to do.”
Nguyen said as a first-time color commentator on a big stage — Rizin FF 18 will be available on Fite TV pay-per-view — nerves are to be expected.
“But once I get warmed up, I think things will start to settle and I’ll get my flow going,” Nguyen said.
The biggest challenge Nguyen expects to face in the booth is forgetting about how many people are listening to him at any given moment.
“Staying calm and trying to not think about how many people are watching at the same time,” Nguyen said when asked what the biggest challenge come fight night will be. “If that gets stuck in your head, like a million people are watching and listening to everything I’m saying, that’s going to get in your head and ruin your flow.”
Nguyen said for now, it’s just a one-time thing. Rizin hasn’t told him otherwise. But you can bet that Nguyen is interested in doing this more and more down the road.
“Who knows?” Nguyen said. “Hopefully I’ll outperform Frank Trigg, do better than him, and get a call back. It’d be amazing to be able to do this on a regular basis.”