“You don’t know who you really are until you’ve been punched in the face.”
And the first line of Chapter 1 of Bruce Buffer’s autobiography “It’s Time: My 360 Degree View of the UFC” (Crown Publishing) isn’t just talking about life in and around the MMA Octagon.
As any longtime fight fan knows, Buffer has spent 17 years building his brand of high-energy announcing duties for Ultimate Fighting Championships into one of the sport's most enduring calling cards. While fighters — even the sport's most legendary — come and go with the years, Buffer's theatrical spins and vocal flourishes while energizing the crowd ahead of nearly every major UFC match for nearly two decades have made the former telemarketer and entrepreneur into one of mixed martial arts' most familiar faces.
But as documented in "It's Time," Buffer was on the giving — and receiving — end of several physical as well as metaphorical punches to the face long before he hooked up with UFC in 1997.
Arguably none of those punches were more life-changing, Buffer recounts, as the day his father Joe grudgingly admitted to a 30-year-old Bruce that he'd been married before wedding Bruce's mother — and that union produced a son that it turns out was famed boxing announcer Michael Buffer — creator and deliverer of the already ubiquitous catchphrase "let's get ready to rumble."
Buffer doesn't interject any sense of bravado or ego into his first meeting with Michael — in fact, the long-time fight fan delivers the tale as a conflicted mash-up: delight and confusion at meeting a brother for the first time along with a starstruck awe about Michael's celebrity status and station in the fight game.
After building a relationship and rapport with his long-lost brother (a path that probably could have used some expansion over the six pages it was allowed in the book), Bruce, already a successful businessman at the time, eventually became Michael's manager, trademarking Michael's legendary phrase and helping make his half-brother a millionaire for the first time.
But where the book truly kicks into another gear for MMA and UFC fans comes when Michael's brief affiliation with UFC brings brother Bruce into the fold and kickstarts Bruce's burgeoning interest in following in Michael's announcing footsteps.
By 1997, Bruce is the official voice of the UFC — and from there, the lion's share of the book becomes a treasure trove of stories and anecdotes reaching back over the past 15 years as Buffer weaves the true behind the scenes story of UFC's meteoric rise from its near-banning at the hands of Congress into where it is today as arguably one of the most potent growth sports in America.
If you've ever wanted to sit down at a bar and hear Buffer regale you with story after story from every corner of UFC's past, this is the book for you.
From his encounters with some of UFC's earliest stars like Ken Shamrock, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, Buffer pulls back the veil a bit on each to show what it took for each of those men to help launch the sport.
Not one to softpedal what the fans REALLY want to know about, Buffer even reserves an entire chapter for some of the best fights fans DIDN'T see — fights like the infamous Chinawhite Nightclub melee in London in 2002 that saw Ortiz, Liddell and a host of other fighters and entourage throw punches in a London alley — likely because some horsing around went a little too far.
And hey, where would a Buffer autobiography truly be if it didn't present the story behind the creation of his own fight catchphrase "It's Time" and his matador-like Buffer 180 — and even 360 — spins and theatrics that accompany his ring introductions. Both are recounted here in glorious detail.
"It's Time" introduces us to much the same Bruce Buffer we feel we know from his announcing and radio show appearances — an opinionated and aggressive, yet principled and compassionate master of ceremonies serving as a revved-up ringmaster in front of the often crazy circus that is UFC.
And to hear it straight from Buffer's own thoughts, he wouldn't have it any other way.
Bruce Buffer's "It's Time: My 360 Degree View of the UFC" hits bookstores and online retailers like Amazon May 14.