Mike Goldberg’s voice has helped change the way fans view MMA.
With the UFC knocking down the political barriers holding back the sport, Goldberg (Twitter: @MFG16) has a special responsibility of not only giving play-by-play commentary, but also educating new fans. Goldberg has been a part of the UFC since 1997 when he was given the opportunity to commentate Ultimate Japan, UFC’s first venture out of the United States.
Prior to the UFC, Goldberg commented for other professional sports.
“I did the AVP Beach Tour for three seasons and it was awesome,” Goldberg told Mike, Brian, and Amy on the MMA Beatdown show on MMA DieHards Radio Network. “That was a great gig because you get to show up in your shorts and polo shirt, there’s always a Bud Light party the night before so you go and drink a bunch of beers — unlike my discipline with the UFC Friday nights. Then you go out to the beach and call beach volleyball all day, staring at boats in the background.”
Goldberg’s first introduction to sports was hockey, as a 5-year-old. Wearing No. 16 throughout his youth hockey career, Goldberg developed a passion for pucks that matured to a career in broadcasting and coaching.
Fortunately for fight fans, it was because of hockey that Goldberg found MMA. He called games for the Detroit Red Wings and the Minnesota Wild, and did 2 1/2 seasons with ESPN. One of his producers at ESPN and with the Red Wings, Bruce Connell, gave him the entree to the UFC in 1997.
“I didn’t get my contract renewed in Detroit and at about the same time that Bruce Beck left the UFC to take a full time job with NBC in New York,” Goldberg said. ”Bruce Connell called me and said that he had a gig for me, it was in Japan, it’s in December and that I had to take a jiu-jitsu class.”
Goldberg admitted that two of the three UFC events he missed were because of the Wild’s run to the Western Conference Finals in 2003. During the time he was doing both sports he noticed similarities between fighters and hockey players.
Goldberg’s ability to switch back and forth from the faster-paced team sports to the sometimes slower-paced individual combat action helped his confidence.
“I called a lot of basketball, but I also called some baseball, I called some football, I called a lot of college football,” Goldberg said. ”So I was used to letting my guy take over for the replays. With Joe (Rogan), our play-by-play is seamless. There are times where Joe is doing the play-by-play, especially when it comes to the ground game. So as long as we get it out there I don’t care if I say it or Joe says it.
“I enjoy Joe being my partner, I enjoy our friendship and as long as the fans at home are getting the information, I’m happy with it, but it’s definitely a little different than calling hockey.”
In the midst of the busy UFC schedule, Goldberg still tried to find time to commentate for his hometown professional football team, the Arizona Cardinals, in the preseason. He was mainly thwarted by Saturday’s UFC 134 in Brazil, and the Cardinals were looking for a crew to do all four games. In 2010 he did three games, and missed the Cardinals’ game with the Chicago Bears to work at the UFC’s Boston event.
Yielding the NFL gig got to Goldberg, who lives in the greater Phoenix area known as The Valley. It also gave him some relief from a large amount of study time.
Instead of being in the booth for the Cardinals-San Diego Chargers game Saturday, Goldberg will sit beside Rogan for the UFC’s long overdue trip back to Brazil. It has been over a decade since the UFC and Goldberg have been there.
“I’m really, really excited,” he said. ”There is great history there, there is a ton of passion and the fans are going to be treated to seeing many of their own, including the best there is, pound-for-pound best in the world right now in Anderson Silva. It’s going to be a really cool trip. During the promo I said that this is the first time in 13 years the Octagon returns to Brazil and I was like, ‘Wow, 13 years?’ We’ve been waiting to get back.”
Goldberg has not been back to Japan since his promotional debut event in 1997.
“I was confident that I would be in Japan a dozen times by now in my life and I still haven’t been back, so hopefully that’s the next big one on the list,” he said.
When not working, Goldberg turns into Super Dad, committing more time to his children’s interests. He is coaching his son’s hockey team, and says it takes up more time that the UFC.
He jokes about being able to hear his wife from the stands at the hockey games. Still more time is dedicated to enjoying his daughter’s musical theater performances. He manages to fit in a little time for himself.
“I try to get my Muay Thai training in with Master Jason Bress and the guys at Jab Fitness in Tempe, Ariz.,” he said. ”I try to get in there four to five times a week. The biggest thing about my training in Muay Thai is that it’s really helped me to learn what these guys do. That’s what I do with my free time, but a lot of time is spent at the hockey rink. I was just there with my son (in the) afternoon and now he is doing his Muay Thai class right now.”
Fittingly, to close out MMA Beatdown, which can be heard live Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 PT or on demand any time on the MMA DieHards Radio Network, Goldberg made his signature call.
“It’s been great to be with you tonight, I’m sorry we have to go, but it is ALL OVER!”