The recent departure of Bjorn Rebney from Bellator got me thinking about the rest of the non-UFC MMA world, and what it has to offer—both good and bad. So, I’ve compiled a list of the best and worst in a few categories. How do they stack up against their counterparts in the UFC? Hell, I don’t know, but none of them have a signature 360-degree turn while doing any of their jobs.
BEST: Jason Chambers, One FC
Chambers is refreshing to hear while watching fights. Not only does he sound professional behind the mic, but he was a seasoned pro MMA fighter himself, which gives him an insider’s perspective into what’s going on during fights. The former Human Weapon host regularly pokes fun at himself, and rarely do we get the ever-so-obnoxious “When I trained with so-and-so” type of rubbish we hear from other ex-fighter commentators. Even if Chambers does occasionally botch names of the One FC fighters like “Xainj-Gui- Zambetriuyuiock,” he still maintains great hair, even in the humidity of Southeast Asia.
WORST: Bas Rutten, various promotions
Bas’s golden days are behind him, and he’s forgotten that he isn’t fighting anymore. His once-funny shtick has become stale and we can only hear so many mispronounced moves and slaughtered names of fighters before we want to turn down the volume and enjoy the second-tier MMA in front of us—though I am still a sucker for any liver-shot references.
BEST: Rich Chou, Strikeforce and (Now) Bellator
There’s a reason Rich Chou was brought in to Bellator after Scott Coker took over. No, it’s not because he and Coker are good friends, though that may have a small (or huge) part in it. Nick Diaz versus Paul Daley, and Robbie Lawler versus Melvin Manhoef! Do I need to say more? Those fights, along with so many others that Chou put together in Strikeforce’s glory days, had even the most cynical MMA hipster fans jumping with excitement.
WORST: Gregg Sharp, Xplode Fight Series
This joke of a promoter/matchmaker has been in the MMA media spotlight lately after the UFC signed Dashon Johnson, whose 9-0 record was exposed as shamelessly padded. Sharp regularly pits blue-chip prospects with impressive records against fighters with more losses than digits on their hands and feet combined. Hell, Sharp booked a one-legged fighter with a 4-3 record against an 0-10 fighter, to ensure a win. Sharp is a disgrace to the sport, as is his unsanctioned show.
BEST: Scott Coker, Strikeforce/Bellator
Despite losing $40 million of Strikeforce’s cash, he still (somehow) sold his show to the UFC for good money, and was signed on to work for the mammoth MMA promotion. The minute Coker’s non-compete clause expired, Viacom booted Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney, and hired Coker on as the new face of the company. I’m not sure Coker has the Midas touch, as he burned through a ton of cash before selling Strikeforce, but other people certainly believe he does. Plus, Coker has always handled himself with dignity — unlike some people we could mention — and that has to count for something.
WORST: Mark Pavelich, Maximum Fighting Championships
Pavelich isn’t guilty of putting on bad shows. On the contrary, most of MFC’s fights are actually very good, along with the production of the shows. But Pavelich is guilty of something: forgetting he’s not John Gotti, or any other tough guy or important human being for that matter. Pavelich has been spotted on numerous occasions at photo shoots with leather jackets, motorcycles, and exotic cars, basically acting like the main attraction, not the promoter. For all of Pavelich’s megalomaniacal behavior, his greatest feat of douche-baggery was when he left a message on Drew Fickett’s (manager’s) voicemail threatening to “fly down wherever he fucking is and fucking choke him out!”
BEST: Joe Martinez, various shows
Martinez is the consummate professional. He doesn’t scream like a caged animal or have a “signature 360 move.” He announces fights, what he’s supposed to do. Let’s take a look at the best announcer in history, Michael Buffer (he would have won, but we’re talking MMA here, not all sports), and how clean and smooth he is while announcing fights. Martinez takes after the good Buffer, and knows the fights are what is hyping the crowd. He doesn’t need to create a spectacle of their introductions.
WORST: Ric Reyes/Roland Sarria, Rage In The Cage
Ric Reyes isn’t so bad at just announcing the fights, but it’s his need to continue speaking after his job is done that has him on this list. I mean, how hard is it to sit down and shut your mouth after the bell rings? Apparently, very difficult. Why is it so difficult? Roland Sarria, the former owner of Rage In The Cage, who would regularly engage in over-the-mic shenanigans with Reyes mid-fight. Sarria once yelled over the loudspeaker, during the middle of a super-heavyweight fight, that the “two men inside the cage are sponsored by Krispy Kreme.” Reyes chimed in that he hoped the doors and cage would hold up. And the two regularly yell, “Do you want to see them up, or do you want to see them down?” while the fight is unfolding. If Martinez is the consummate professional, Reyes and Sarria are the antithesis, and may or may not be able to correctly call the clowns out of their cars at the local circus.