Fight Pass reminds us how good MMA commentary can be

Fight Pass has been the subject of much debate in the MMA world since launching in December. At this point for $9.99 a month, you can watch just about any MMA event video that is owned by Zuffa as well as every episode of The Ultimate Fighter and much more. However, the real point of Fight Pass is to provide a platform for the UFC to broadcast smaller scale, regional events to the hardcore fans across the world who want to see them. With five such events now in the books, since London in March the Fight Pass broadcasts have had their own dedicated broadcast team. With Andy Friedlander announcing the fighters in the cage, UFC fighter Dan Hardy and veteran commentator John Gooden make up the commentary team in this all-British line-up.

Friedlander is an experienced announcer, having been the dedicated PA announcer for Wembley Stadium for a number of years. After a fashion faux pas in London (a jacket really is a must, Andy), Friedlander has become more and more comfortable as the events have gone on. Arguably Andy has the hardest job – Bruce Buffer’s voice is iconic and a huge part of the atmosphere of UFC events, and replacing that was never going to be easy. However with more and more double headers like Saturday’s the UFC were going to have to bring on permanent alternatives, as Joe Martinez isn’t exactly sitting at home by the phone. Far from trying to be Buffer-lite, Friedlander has developed his own voice and is working on his own catchphrases. I’m not sure how I feel about “we have the world watching”, but at least he’s trying.

However, the real treat is listening to the Gooden/Hardy combo on commentary. One MMA journalist remarked to me yesterday that they were almost worth the price of Fight Pass alone, and he isn’t lying. John Gooden, always rocking a bow tie and sharp jacket like a much-younger version of Bill Nye, is a veteran of MMA commentary on the UK scene and is an expert at introducing the fighters and getting across their stories. He’s also very knowledgeable in his own right and can easily communicate technical commentary just as well. Dan Hardy commentated in London with just one live practice run under his belt, and is now very much coming into his own.

The contrast between the Brits and the first string UFC team of Goldberg and Rogan when introducing fighters is stark – no “explosiveness”, no “dynamism”, absolutely no “heart”. Instead, within the first few minutes, Gooden and Hardy get across exactly where the two fighters in any bout are strong and what their strategy will likely be. Inside the first thirty seconds of the first fight we see how accurate their predictions can be – Hardy comments than Niinimaki will need to get inside and take Backstrom down, and within seconds then Finn had done just that. They go on to explain the grips, the positioning, and all the other intricacies of ground fighting, and this is just one example of how they are able to enhance and explain what is going on in the cage. The two are reserved, for the most part, with no Rogan-esque screeching. It’s an enjoyable¬†yet unobtrusive¬†listen.

Fight Pass commentary is, arguably, the most difficult assignment for any UFC commentator. Often consisting of a significant number of fights between unknown foreign prospects, the knowledge of Gooden is absolutely priceless. John has commentated for Cage Warriors and other leading European organisations, so has seen many of the European prospects first hand.

I’m not ashamed to admit it – I love this team. I want them to commentate everything. Sadly, for the moment they are kept in reserve for the European cards. You can have too much of a good thing I suppose…

Roll on July 19th.


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