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His heaven is an octagon, its rising black cyclone fence and foam padding his sanctuary, his sandbox, his theater. It’s where no one can touch him and where he touches millions, where he’s never deterred. Neither a blown-out balloon of a knee, nor or a raging, spittle-flying 250-pound menace, nor a ritualistic slap in the face can stop him in there. It’s where the world knows him. From his trademark “It’s Time” catchphrase and his leap to his wacky body gyrations and his energy and passion, his widespread appeal has grown from the condo-living jeans-and-T-shirt crowd and the tattooed lot to the pinky-out, café au lait-sipping sculptures that sit at sidewalk tables in rattan bistro chairs thinking they live in Paris.

Bruce Buffer is part of that pioneering troupe that made believers. The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s iconic ring announcer carries a larger-than-life personality and to a large extent is one of the faces that made the sport. He was there when mixed martial arts was at its nascent stage, there at the nadir when he was in front of half-empty arenas, auditoriums and closet gyms yelling names above the din of crickets. The fans that would fill the seats would look at the fighters as if they were a traveling band of Martians. They didn’t even know what MMA was back then.

That, however, was where MMA was over 20-some years ago, before Jeff Blatnick masterfully coined the phrase “MMA” and the mainstream sports world, after some initial reluctance, grabbed on.

MMA was once a nitty-gritty world. Buffer should know. He has been there at literally every turn of the UFC, when it was owned by Robert Meyrowitz and Semaphore Entertainment Group and now under the current reign of the Zuffa umbrella, with Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White. Buffer recalled the pushback MMA received from the government (Sen. John McCain) and the doors slammed in its face from the old-school thinkers in the passé sports media.


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