Mike Goldberg: “You can hear the corner speaking Portuguese.”
Joe Rogan: “Uh, that’s Japanese, brother.”
Mike Goldberg: “I should have known that.”
Joe Rogan: “You’re the one married to a Japanese chick.”
Mike Goldberg: “That is correct.”
Maybe it’s just me, but the UFC just hasn’t been the same since UFC 207. And no, it’s not because cash cow Ronda Rousey has been put out to pasture – it’s because that’s the last time any of us have heard the sweet, dulcimer tones of one Mike Goldberg.
Yeah, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone, do ‘ya? For almost 20 years, we all made fun of old Goldy – primarily, because he thought Travis Lutter was the “Michael Jordan of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu” and actually said stuff like “you almost just want to sit back and watch Sokoudjou and soak it in.” Sure, sure, sometimes he did refer to the company cutting his checks as the “Ultimate Defining Championship” from time to time, but there’s no denying he brought a remarkable amount of raw energy to the UFC product.
With the powers that be at WME handing Goldberg his walking papers last December, however, Joe Rogan is still sans a proper commentating partner, and try as they may, guys like Dominick Cruz, Brian Stann and especially that talking paperweight Jon Anik just can’t provide the same kind of exuberant delivery. Rogan is direly in need of another hyperactive foil – not just someone who can provide staid, paint-by-numbers color commentary, but someone he can literally bounce his commentary off of. Or to put it another way? We really, really need somebody to play Pinkie to Joe Rogan’s The Brain, in much the same way Goldberg fulfilled the role for nearly two decades.
Although Goldberg’s enthusiastic play-by-play and wry, insightful commentary about NERF balls may never be replaced in our hearts, the UFC does have a pretty good assortment of potential Goldberg stand-ins waiting in the wings. Y’know, pending the new management ever gets up off their asses and decides to fill the vacancy in the announce booth nobody’s brought up on air over the last three months. Below you’ll find five prospective Mike Goldberg fill-ins – some who have had extensive experience calling MMA broadcasts and some who have been successful doing play-by-play for entirely different kinds of live, on-air entertainment – who, if absolutely nothing else, would ensure we wouldn’t have a boring time listening to the UFC for a long, long time to come …
Mike Goldberg Replacement No. 1: Bas Rutten
Old school fans of Pride FC can certainly vouch for Rutten’s nomination. In a way, Rutten kinda’ played the Joe Rogan role while in Japan, serving as a cool, collected foil for announcer Mauro Ranallo’s more excited play-by-play. Even going back to the very first Pride show, you can see (well, more like hear) everything that makes Rutten – additionally, a former UFC Heavyweight champ, the absolute best thing about Here Comes The Boom and the star of the greatest self defense tape ever made – such a fantastic commentator. Obviously, he has the technical stuff on lockdown (a pro fighter better have the damn terminology memorized, I suppose) and he has a very dry sense of absurdist humor (like that time he said the opening ceremony music at Pride 23 reminded him of The Evil Dead, or the many, many times he attempted to sing along to Fedor Emelianenko’s music.) Rutten also showed his broadcast chops on Inside MMA back in the day, proving he can do real sports journalism in addition to amusing the masses with stories about nearly getting killed buying weed from the Yakuza and outlining – in suspiciously in-depth detail – how he would defeat an actual lion inside the Octagon.
Mike Goldberg Replacement No. 2: Jim Ross
Pretty much everybody and their mama has dreamed of listening to a UFC card called by Good Ol’ J.R. Whether you know him best for his play-by-play in AWA, WCW or WWE, Jim Ross is about as iconic as fake fisticuffs commentators gets – which, naturally, makes him a an-all-too fitting choice for a real fisticuffs play-by-play man. While the greatest cerebral palsy-afflicted barbecue sauce baron in the history of the great state of Oklahoma only has minimal experience calling MMA (he signed on to call some indy promotion event in 2014, though) all you have to do is revisit his outstanding boxing commentary for the Fight Network a few years back to hear why this dude would be such a marvelous fit for the UFC. Come on, folks – let’s don’t pretend we’re not all collectively marking out over the prospects of hearing “BAH GAWD, JOE, HE’S NEARLY BROKEN IN HALF!” at some point in our MMA-watching sojourns.
Mike Goldberg Replacement No. 3: Paul Heyman
Kinda’ the same deal with J.R. here. Although Heyman hasn’t had much (if any) experience calling MMA before, he does have years of experience working the pro ‘rassling commentatin’ business, so you know he’s able to hype the shit out of a fight. Since he’s best pals with Brock Lesnar, Heyman (presumably) has a pretty vast knowledge of the MMA world, and he’s even done some marketing work for Strikeforce (which, I guess, sorta’ counts as pulling MMA commentary duties … maybe.) He has the very same hyper-excitable disposition Goldberg was known for, and hey, what do you know, they both just happen to be of the Jewish persuasion. Not only could this guy be fantastic in the announce booth, he could pay dividends working in creative and advertising, too – just as long as he’s not allowed anywhere close to the accounting rolls, he could serve the UFC well in just about any position they stick him in.
Mike Goldberg Replacement No. 4: Mike Tyson
There’s color commentary, and then there’s what happened when the powers that were at Spike TV actually let Mike Tyson do commentary duties at Bellator 149. During the Derek Campos/Melvin Guillard bout, an audibly drunk/stoned Tyson slurred and stumbled his way through the fight, dropping about 40 all-time classic quotes in the process – ranging from a context-less quip about thinking Kevin Randleman killed Fedor with a suplex, screaming “MELVIN! MELVIN!” when Guillard entered the cage and the half sad/half hilarious admission “I don’t even know what I’m doing.” The highlight, however, had to be Tyson’s comments right after Campos KTFO Guillard – channeling the spirit of Bug Bunny, he stoically started yelling “Which way did he go? Which way did he go?” while Melvin faded in and out of consciousness. To date, it’s still the best thing ever associated with Bellator, and putting Tyson in the booth alongside Rogan is pretty much a recipe for sheer, undiluted entertainment; even if the fights aren’t any good, they can just start talking about what it was like doing drugs in the 1980s, and we’d still get our money’s worth as PPV purchasers.
Mike Goldberg Replacement No. 5: Doug Stanhope
While the UFC brass would never, ever vouch for it, I think we can all agree that giving comedian Doug Stanhope Mike Goldberg’s old position is the absolute smartest thing the company could ever do. Sure, sure, Stanhope has no prior experience calling MMA – hell, I’m not even entirely sure he’s ever seen a MMA fight before (note from Mike: he has. He watches all of the big shows at his Funhouse in Bisbee, AZ) – but what he does have is plenty of experiences working alongside Joe Rogan, not only on his podcast but also on the revamped version of The Man Show from the early 2000s. You may not be able to get a whole lot of insightful technical commentary out of him, but you certainly won’t be bored by what he has to say. And let’s face it – there’s a whole hell of a lot of women’s strawweight matches that could be infinitely improved by drunken, meandering screeds about Myspace sex predators. As in, pretty much all of them.