Commonly seen at UFC events conducting backstage fighter interview, or providing insight at the pre/post-fight analyst desk, Laura Sanko will now make her color commentary debut this weekend at UFC Vegas 68: Derrick Lewis vs. Serghei Spivac.
“Fancy” Laura Sanko went 4-1 in amateur MMA, before winning her lone professional bout by rear-naked choke at Invicta FC 4 in January of 2013. Looking back, that was actually a super-stacked card rich with now-notable names like Amanda Nunes, Tecia Torres, Rose Namajunas, Joanne Wood, Leslie Smith, Bec Rawlings, and Carla Esparza to name a few. Why so many recognizable names on one card? Well, it was only a month after this event that the UFC held its inaugural women’s MMA match, Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 on February 23, 2013.
Speaking of firsts, it was at UFC 1 in November of 1993 that Kathy Long became the first woman to ever commentate for the promotion. That was a one-and-done as commentating would become a male-dominated position over the course of the next 30-YEARS. Three, zero. Thirty. Three decades later, and Sanko will now be the second woman in UFC history to provide color commentary for an event.
The golden age of the UFC saw the likes of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg at the commentary helm, with the ever-classy Jon Anik joining the stable in 2011. It was in 2014 that John Gooden and Dan Hardy were brought in to oversee the overseas responsibilities, and then we also had a variety of fighters and coaches frequently making cameos over the years. We should also mention that Hardy’s term didn’t end so well.
A big shift happened to the booth in 2016 after Goldberg’s departure, when Anik stepped up to lead the play-by-play team, and former champions Daniel Cormier and Dominick Cruz were added in. One year after that, Paul Felder was thrown in the mix.
From there the UFC acquired Bellator’s commentator Jimmy Smith in 2018, but his tenure would be short-lived. The UFC elected to not renew Jimmy’s contract going into the 2019 calendar year. Smith stated that the brass told him that ‘we’re going with UFC fighters for 2019,’ and former middleweight champion Michael Bisping was brought in to replace him. Despite the UFC’s ‘reason’ for dropping Smith, a lovely man (but non-fighter) in Brendan Fitzgerald was pulled up from Dana White’s Contender Series duties to start covering UFC events. Fitzy actually just re-signed a multi-year deal with the promotion back in October of 2022.
That brings us back to present day, where Sanko is bringing UFC commentary full circle by becoming the first woman in the booth since UFC 1. Sanko isn’t just a talking head. She has been around the MMA scene for quite some time, is a devoted martial artist, and has professional competition experience under her belt. She clearly knows her shit, and I for one am looking forward to some fresh air on the commentary team. That’s not to say that Sanko won’t be spewing out her own biases, because she certainly will, but it’ll be refreshing to not have to hear the same ol’ tired underhook rhetoric.
About the author: Eddie Mercado has covered combat sports since 2015. He covers everything from betting odds to live events and fighter interviews. He holds a 1-0 record in pro MMA and holds a purple belt in Jiu-Jitsu. (full bio)