Jon Anik’s Journey to the UFC Broadcast Booth (EXCLUSIVE)

UFC Commentator Jon Anik has been covering the company’s events just over a year now, and one thing is apparent from our recent talk with Anik – the world’s foremost MMA promotion has gone out of its way to make Anik’s transition into the booth full-time as seamless as possible. Anik went from doing work on ESPN’s MMA Live and cutting his teeth commentating MMA for the first season of Bellator, to being one of the UFC”s go-to men on the microphone.

Anik spoke to recently about his journey thus far, showing great appreciation for the experiences MMA has afforded him thus far.

On the transition from ESPN to Zuffa:

Its such an interesting transition for me. Being in that corporate ESPN environment for 6 years, and I don’t think I could have gotten better broadcast training. What I do now is an entirely different animal. Working for the promoter as opposed to working for the network. There is a very precise vision we are executing and that has been a big part of the adjustment for me. I am amazed at the production team they have assembled, and one thing that I appreciate is they really do pluck people from all walks of life, and several successful companies and bring them together under this zuffa umbrella. I have just been amazed by all the talented people in all of the departments. To do 35 of these things a year, and all of the stuff that goes into it, from building the octagon and the in house show and everything that goes into a six and a half to seven hour broadcast. There is a lot that goes into it that people don’t see, and I am sort of amazed that more doesn’t go wrong given that so much can go wrong given how much we bite off. Its a huge undertaking to do 35 of these things.

I guess what people don’t understand is that a college basketball game lasts two hours including halftime, an NFL game last three hours, Kenny Florian and I are on headset for close to seven hours. It’s really like doing back to back football games. You really need to pace yourself, and try to preserve as much energy as you can so you are not flat when the main event rolls around and there is nothing left in the tank. That has been the biggest adjustment for me, and is a hugely   day but I wouldn’t change a thing man. I got my dream job, and I am very thankful for it.

On MMA Live and Bellator:

Thankfully at the time ESPN was gracious at the time in letting me do the first season of Bellator which was 12 weeks on the road. So we moved some things around with MMA Live, and they were really great to allow me to do it. I remember when Martin Kampmann fought Carlos Condit I was in my hotel room doing voice overs getting ready for a Bellator show that were being sent back to ESPN so they could be inputted into MMA Live. There were many sacrifices that they made to allow me to do that, and really that allowed me to cut  my teeth calling MMA. It was really at that time my whole career focus changed. When I saw MMA live and in person for the first time in 2007, that was when I got hooked. I watched UFC 1 in 93, we all did, and I was intermittently involved in the sport, but it wasn’t until I saw it live that I really got into it. It wasn’t really until I got the chance to call some fights did I realize I wanted to do that with my life. I always wanted to to make the transition from working in the studio to be doing play by play, but I always thought it would be baseball, football or basketball and the sports I grew up with. Never did I think I would be call mixed martial arts. Thankfully I had that opportunity, and it lead to an incredible opportunity like this one.

On being a full time Zuffa employee:

I’m not really sure the UFC hired me for my past play by play work. I did other play by play stuff besides MMA, but, I want to say this as humbly as possible,  I think they hired me because of my versatility. I am able to do voiceover work, and call fights and really just be a jack of all trades. This is the first time they have had a commentator on staff full time. Unlike Kenny Florian, Mike Goldberg, and Joe Rogan I am a full time Zuffa employee. I know its a luxury for the promotion that they hadn’t had in the past. Whether they need something voiced over real fast or someone to come in and announce the company halloween costume party, which I recently did, on a moments notice I can do it. Alot  of things get thrown my way, and I just try to attack them, stay sane, and remain a good father and husband.

On preparing to do call his first UFC fight, and going through the full production:

We went through the whole broadcast man. I didn’t do the voice overs of the different segments like Mike Goldberg and I do right now for these shows, but we did it with all the bells and whistles. They had hired me, and they auditioned me with Frank Mir, Kenny Florian and Stephan Bonnar and Rich Franklin to determine who they thought should be the analyst. We did pay per views, and we called dozens of fights, and that experience was huge because we weren’t live and we just got the opportunity to do that before we ever call a fight.

They devoted a lot of resources to make sure that when the lights went on at our first show in Nashville that we were very comfortable. At UFC 139 when Henderson fought Shogun, in the greatest fight I have ever seen live, and I here I am calling it with Frank Mir. It gave them the opportunity If I can add this, it allowed me to punch my register as far as it could go. At times they directed me to just go stiff and sometimes to just go so far above and beyond what I would normally do so they could attempt to scale me back.  It was a really cool process, and a great way to ease in the job.

What’s next for Anik:

Traveling has been crazy. It was China in November, Australia in December, Brazil in January, England  in February and we just did Japan in March, and my wife is due with our second daughter in mid April so Goldie is going to step in for me in Sweden. Just because  I can’t be that far away in case she comes early. I will do the TUF finale but Goldie is going to handle the Sweden show, and I will be doing a lot of Ultimate Insider stuff and they keep me busy. It will be nice to be home with my family, I have been on the road a ton. It beats you up pretty good, and it will be nice to home for a bit and get ready for a bunch of Brazil trips this summer.