Bruce Buffer is one of the most interesting people in the world. Most know Buffer as the UFC octagon announcer with golden pipes and high energy who turned “IT’S TIME!” and “AND STILL CHAMPION” into well-known catchphrases. Few know of his unique and fascinating background that shaped his journey to becoming VOTO (Voice Of The Octagon), as well as a martial artist, kick-boxer, CEO, motivational speaker, top-ranked poker player, actor, author, and more.
Buffer was the inspiration for AndStill.com. His book, It’s Time! My 360 View of the UFC (4.6 stars on Amazon) energized us to launch the business And Still, LLC, and to trademark AND STILL CHAMPION™, a catchphrase that Bruce and his half-brother Michael Buffer helped make famous through their roaring voices. For over 100 years, these words have defined the moment when a champion has successfully defended the title against a worthy contender. The battle is over, the winner’s hand is raised, and the announcer’s voice thunders: “the winner…AND STILL CHAMPION!”
Bruce was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 21, 1957. He and his brother Brian were raised by their parents, Connie and Joe Buffer. His mother was a kind, supportive woman of Italian descent who stood 4 feet, eleven. His father stood six-feet tall and was a rugged former Marine Drill Sergeant who had served in WWII and the Korean War. He had boxed in the military and taught his sons a wide range of life skills that included self-defense, stripping weapons, playing poker, and even reciting poetry.
After serving his country, Joe Buffer worked as an executive for several Fortune 500 companies, until he eventually pursued his dream of becoming a writer. In 1975, he authored his first and only novel, Skull, which is a character portrait of a handsome, tough Vietnam veteran and assassin-for-hire, who gets the girls while doing his doing his adventurous job. Although the book sounds like ‘70’s pulp fiction, it received good reviews. The book captures the adventure, confidence, and courage that Bruce's father passed along to him.
Bruce’s grandfather on his father’s side was boxing great Johnny Buff (image below), who boxed while serving in the US Navy aboard the USS Rhode Island during WWI. Buff went on to become bantamweight champion in 1921 and 1922. Johnny Buff’s birth name was John Lisky. He held the nickname, “Buffalo,” which was shortened to Buff, and then passed down to his children as Buffer.
Bruce was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where at 13 years old he began studying judo. His family struggled financially. While he was in high school, his mother had to sell her diamond wedding ring so the family could have enough money to put food on the table. His father, showing pride and perseverance that were hallmarks of his character, eventually replaced it after they had achieved greater success in life.
At age 15, Bruce moved with his family to Malibu, California. He trained in kickboxing and martial arts. In addition to achieving greenbelt in Judo, Buffer earned his second-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, which is often described as Korean-style karate. Buffer’s love for martial arts would eventually lead him to a dojo in Torrance, California, where he sparred with Royce Gracie; this happened long before UFC1 and before anyone had heard of Brazillian Jiu-Jitso or mixed martial arts.
Shortly after he started college, Buffer took a job as a telemarketer. He was so good at selling that he was promoted to his boss’s job after only two months. Not long afterward, showing his independence and desire to be self-reliant, he started his own tele-sales business with top talent recruited from his former employer.
Buffer's confidence and skills had outgrown his telemarketing job and his interest in sports and fitness remained strong. He left his telesales job to launch a business selling nutritional products. His tremendous marketing and sales skill quickly grew the business to more than $10 million in annual sales and his firm had more than 50 sales people covering the phones.
Bruce was 29 when he learned that Michael Buffer (Pinterest image below), legendary boxing ring announcer, was his brother. He had seen Michael announcing boxing events and noticed their similar facial features and shared uncommon last name. He eventually asked his father about his observations and was stunned when his father told him Michael was his half-brother. Joe Buffer had been married for a short time at a young age before going off to war; his first marriage produced a son, Michael, who was raised by a foster family. Bruce’s parents rarely spoke about events in their lives before their marriage, and they had never mentioned his father’s first marriage or the son it had produced.
Bruce persuaded his father to call Michael. During the call, Joe and Michael agreed to meet. Their first meeting went well and they set up another meeting, so Michael could meet his half-siblings. When Bruce and Michael finally met, they hit it off immediately and discovered they had complimentary skills. Michael was making good money as a boxing ring announcer, and Bruce was certain he could help him become even more successful by applying his sales and marketing expertise to Michael’s famous voice and catchphrase, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”
He could not have been more right. Michael agreed to make Bruce CEO of Buffer Enterprises, and they each put a check for $5,000 into the business. From his new role, Bruce strengthened and secured watertight trademarks for Michael’s voice and catchphrase, and then sold them into numerous firms, including World Championship Wrestling and Midway, which made video games, including Mortal Kombat. Bruce envisioned a “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” video game with his brother’s voice, and Midway brought it to life in a bundled game and Dreamcast-console package that generated $98 million in sales in 1999. To date, the “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” trademark has grossed over $400 million in sales from numerous licensed ventures Buffer Enterprises has developed.
Bruce initiated Buffer Enterprises long before setting foot in the octagon. He admired what Michael did and how he did it, and this fueled a desire within him to become an announcer with his own style and flare. He loved martial arts and knew he would never want to compete with Michael by announcing boxing, so Buffer made a promise to himself that he would one day become the octagon announcer for the UFC.
In 1996, nearly ten years after meeting Michael for the first time, Buffer achieved his dream as voice of the octagon at UFC 8. He was invited back for UFC 10, and shortly afterward guest-starred as himself – voice of the octagon – on Friends. Following his appearance on Friends, Buffer approached then-owner of the UFC and made a deal to become the announcer for every show starting with UFC 13 – and he has been for the last 17 years.
Buffer’s professional career extends beyond Buffer Enterprises and the octagon. His amazing journey includes professional poker and acting. Buffer applied the poker skills his father had taught him to become a world-rated poker player on the professional circuit. He was a finalist on ESPN’s televised World Series of Poker Main Event in 2005 and 2007, and made it to the final table of the World Poker Tour Season 3. The Luxor Las Vegas hotel poker room is named after Bruce Buffer.
In addition to having appeared in Friends, Bruce’s acting career includes TV-show appearances in Tosh.O and the HBO series Entourage and movie roles in Hot Tub Time Machine, Here Comes the Boom, and Holmes & Watson.