New UFC on Fuel TV and FX play-by-play commentator Jon Anik was a guest this past week on the 1st Quarter’s MMA segment on 102.5 FM The Game (Nashville Sports Radio). Hosts Darren McFarland, Brad Hopkins and Chris Pappas talked with Anik about making the transition from ESPN to the UFC, ESPN’s commitment to mixed martial arts coverage, “Rampage” Jackson’s criticism about Joe Rogan’s commentary and much more.
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Most mixed martial arts fans know Jon Anik as the former host of ESPN’s MMA Live show, which started out as a web-only program, then moved to ESPN 2 television. As far as why Anik left ESPN, he said he wanted to focus on MMA full-time, and at least from a television standpoint, that was not going to happen at ESPN.
Anik said the timing could not have been better as the UFC was moving into their new seven-year deal with FOX and their family of networks and needed a second broadcast team.
“This deal wouldn’t have been consummated if play-by-play wasn’t a part of it. I wanted to get back to doing live events. I feel like my skill set sort of dovetails more nicely with that than with some of the studio stuff and that was really a big focus for me when I was trying to figure out what the next career step was going to be, was to call live events whether it was football games or fights.”
Anik talked about the challenges of making the transition from ESPN as host of MMA Live to working for the UFC as a commentator. He also talked about working alongside Kenny Florian and how he compares with some of the other guys the UFC auditioned for the role.
“The transition has been smooth overall I would say. There’s certainly a comfort level for Kenny Florian and when I was going through the audition process, you know after I was hired they auditioned me as some of you might know, with four different fighters, Kenny Florian, Stephan Bonnar, Rick Franklin and Frank Mir, to see sort of what was the best combination. I think they all sort of had their strengths and I think if you asked me each guy individually, I would say maybe Frank Mir is the most technical. Rich Franklin might be the most articulate. Bonnar probably is the most prepared and has the most energy. But I think Kenny Florian is probably the most consistent when it comes to all of those categories. So that sort of helped my transition. But you know, I’m not going to lie, it has been difficult. The UFC does television in a completely different way than ESPN does. They do it in a way that’s even different than the way FOX does. So there’s been a lot of adjustments from a production standpoint that I won’t really get into that have maybe made the transition a little bit difficult. The fan response overall has been positive, but when you have listened to Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan call every UFC fight for a decade, there are going to be a lot of people who just don’t like change…”
Anik said he was warned by UFC President Dana White there would to be a lot of haters when he took the job, and not just fans but from the MMA media, guys who he thought were his friends would stop following him on Twitter and things of that nature. Anik said that sort of thing has happened, but also insists he has thick skin and is there to do a job and fulfill his contract.
Listen to the entire interview above for much more from UFC on Fuel TV and FX commentator Jon Anik. You can follow Jon on Twitter at @Jon_Anik.
Sports fans can listen to 102.5 FM online 24/7 or tune in every Thursday morning for LIVE MMA talk at www.1025thegame.com. ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) is the exclusive home of the 1st Quarter’s MMA archives. Follow the 1st Quarter crew on Twitter: Chris Pappas @Nashville_MMA, Darren McFarland @1stQuarter and Brad Hopkins @H7O2P.