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July 25, 2014

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No. 9: The Voice: Buffer offers unique entertainment to UFC events

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Sam Morris

Ring announcer Bruce Buffer calls the start of a fight at UFC 84 on May 23, 2008 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The legendary “Voice of the Octagon” said he may have a trick up his sleeve for UFC 100.

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UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer gets fully involved in his job at a recent romp in the Octagon.

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Editor's Note: The Ultimate Fighting Championship is celebrating its 100th show on July 11 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. In the days leading up to this historic night, the Las Vegas Sun is presenting a Top 10 list of key personalities and points that have helped propel the sport into the forefront of the world's fighting conscience.

There's a special kind of focus that makes one man the "Veteran voice of the Octagon."

You don't have it. I don't have it. Few of us will ever even understand it.

The man who welds this power refers to it simply as: “Buffer-mode.”

"I'm going to be in 150-percent, full Buffer-mode four different times during UFC 100," said longtime Octagon announcer Bruce Buffer.

"It's like there are four main events, so I'm almost going to need another lung. I'm training for this event the same way a fighter would."

Throughout the history of the UFC — various champions, new company owners, and even rewritten rules — there have been few constants as steady as Buffer.

How it all happened is, well, kind of a long story.

Buffer was raised between Texas and Philadelphia before moving to Malibu, Calif. when he was 15. At the age of 19, he dropped out of Santa Monica College to start a business that distributed printer paper and toner.

While watching a boxing match in the late 1980s, he noticed a man by the name of Michael Buffer announcing the fighters in the ring. In addition to sharing the same unique last name, Bruce felt they looked eerily familiar.

"I saw this guy walking out, a pretty boy named Buffer who did an amazing job and I got butterflies in my stomach," Buffer said. "We kind of looked alike and we had the same last name and I've never seen that last name in a phonebook in my life."

Eventually it was discovered that Bruce and Michael were half-brothers. Although the two were both over 30 by the first time they met, it didn't take long for them to bond. Their close relationship led to Bruce's decision to sell his company and start managing Michael's career.

"My dad called him and we got together and became one family as we should be," Buffer said. "I would travel to events watching Michael for a few years until I came to an epiphany: I was successful, but I didn't enjoy what I was doing. I sold my companies and made it my goal to make Michael, and myself, richer and more famous from then on."

Buffer's involvement with the UFC began when he convinced the organization to hire his brother for UFC 6. However Michael ended up announcing for the UFC only twice due to a conflict with another employer, World Championship Wrestling.

For UFC 8 in Puerto Rico, Buffer called the owner and asked for his own shot at the mic.

"I called him and said, 'Hey, I'm coming down to Puerto Rico, I've got the tux in the bag. Let me show you what I got,’" Buffer said. "That was the first time I got in the Octagon."

That first appearance has turned into what he calls "full rooms" of memories he hopes to write about someday and the honor of stepping into the Octagon at the milestone UFC 100 event.

As the organization approaches unprecedented popularity, Buffer has become just as much a fixture of the promotion as company president Dana White or founder Lorenzo Fertitta. His catchphrases of "It's time" and "We are live" are known worldwide.

"Bruce is synonymous with the UFC, he's become a staple of it," said top lightweight contender Kenny Florian. "To have him around as a personality definitely adds to the level of the event. He's one of the guys that really make the UFC a top-level production."

Because Buffer refuses to rehearse before performances, he couldn't say for sure if anything special was planned for UFC 100. One move that everybody seems to be looking for is "the Buffer 360", a modified version of what Buffer already does with "the Buffer 180" — where he looks away from the fighter he's introducing before spinning quickly towards him.

UFC announcer Joe Rogan has already been filmed telling Buffer, "If you do the 360 at UFC 100 I will (expletive) my pants."

Buffer doesn't know if the 360 is meant to be or not. But he's sure that once he's in full Buffer-mode, he'll know.

"Will the 360 ever happen? If it ever happens it could only happen at 100," Buffer said. "That's a decision I will make at the exact millisecond that I do or do not do it. I have to treat it that way, because if I rehearse it I'll screw it up."

Whether it's with a 360, 180 or 540, Buffer just hopes that UFC 100 proves to be the performance of his life and adds another small contribution to the history of the organization he's dedicated himself to.

"When I leave that arena, I just want to know that the fighters were jazzed, that I jacked them up beyond the point they were at and that the fans received entertainment," he said. "When a little kid comes up to me and asks for an autograph, that's the most amazing compliment I can even imagine."

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