mma / Columns

Just Like That: Saying Goodbye to Mike Goldberg

January 10, 2017 | Posted by Evan Zivin
Mike Goldberg

Mike Goldberg. Unemployment. HERE WE GO!

Y’know something, my loyal, sexy readers? We suffered a lot of loss in 2016.

We lost a lot of celebrities, some of which we even cared about.

We lost one of the greatest, most storied world championship droughts in sports history (don’t worry, Cubs – this is the year you can get back on track).

We lost the ability to choose our next president (or at least we deserve to after that shitshow…).

And the UFC itself saw a ton of loss last year.

Miesha Tate and Urijah Faber retired.

Numerous top fighters, including Jon Jones, Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Lyoto Machida, Chad Mendes, Gleison Tibau – GLEISON FRICKIN’ TIBAU – received 1-2 year suspensions for USADA drug violations.

Ronda Rousey fought what is probably her last fight (or whatever that was at UFC 207) and Conor McGregor has ensured that at least one weight class is never going to see its title get defended because there’s not enough money in it (not when the belt a weight class up is sooooo shiny…).

The UFC sale to WME-IMG saw tons of employees leave, from matchmaker Joe Silva resigning to pink slips being handed to Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes, former champions who were on the payroll because it was the only way Dana White could stop them from tarnishing their legacies any further.

And, just when we thought all the goodbyes had been said, we learned, quite abruptly, that one more name was being added to the list: longtime play-by-play announcer Mike Goldberg.

That’s right. I’m going to do something that UFC was too good to do and give a…somewhat proper sendoff to one of the longest tenured employees in UFC history.

Let’s go ahead and take a book out of the chapter of Mr. Goldberg’s life…

…brought to you by Metro PCS!

Metro PCS: Because T-Mobile wouldn’t return our phone calls.

Mike Goldberg has held an interesting place in the history of MMA, being one of the few constants through the majority of the UFC’s existence.

He joined the broadcast team in 1997, right at the time the sport was still being called “human cockfighting” by U.S. senators and getting banned in states the promotion wouldn’t be able to visit again until Conor McGregor said it was okay to go back.

Mike witnessed the transition of power from the UFC’s original owners, SEG, to the Fertittas and Dana White, and was the voice of the company as it slowly clawed its way back from the brink of death to be front and center for the boom period of the mid-to-late 00s.

Mike saw the rise and fall of countless UFC legends, from Liddell and Hughes to Randy Couture, Georges St-Pierre, and Anderson Silva.

Mike’s voice narrated the stories of countless rivalries, from Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock to Rampage Jackson vs. Rashad Evans to Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos to Chael Sonnen vs. Whoever was making more money than him at the moment.

He called the action for the very first UFC fight to air on US television, when Robbie Lawler knocked out Steve Berger in 2002. That’s right. THE Steve Berger.

His voice was the one we heard at the start of the original Ultimate Fighter Finale, the first live fight card to be broadcast on US television, the event that featured the first Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar fight, the fight that Dana still considers to be the most important fight in the history of the UFC.

He was the man at cageside for the first UFC fight card on FOX, which featured a fight that delivered 137,500 viewers for every second Cain Velasquez’s head remained un-caved in.

Of course, longevity is not a quality that, in and of itself, makes someone good at their job, as can be inferred by all the criticism that has been lobbed at Goldie through the course of his 19 year career.

And, while it would be easy to bring up all of Mike’s verbal flubs and gaffes, like calling a straight punch a jab or failing over BJ Penn’s nickname “The Prodigy” or calling the grappling of Travis Lutter, the man who served as Anderson Silva’s punching bag at UFC 67, as “Michael Jordanesque,” I’m not going to stoop to doing that.

Well, aside from the few times I just did. And the few more times I will before the end of this column.

In a slight defense of that, the guy did live television for 20 years. You find me someone who doesn’t have a laundry list of verbal mistakes working in that medium for that long and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t agree that Corn Nuts aren’t CORN TO THE CORE!

That’s the other criticism Mike has faced, promoting sponsors over calling fights, but that’s hardly his fault. All sports broadcasters are expected to be glorified corporate whores these days. It’s just easier for someone like Joe Buck to plug Bud Light when there are so many more breaks in the action of a football game than an MMA fight.

Bud Light: Because that Harley-Davidson I just won that I’m contractually not supposed to be riding won’t pay for itself.

Hey, do you guys remember when they tried Mike as a play-by-play guy for the NFL? He did a Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings game in 2014 and called the action with the same tempo and pacing of a UFC Payperview, which came across as extremely awkward.

Oh, and he also got players’ names wrong, confused yards and plays, and showed an overall knowledge of the sport on par with a drunk European who can’t understand why everyone is throwing the ball in a sport called “Football.”

Yeah, I don’t get it either. Neither did Mike, who responded to that criticism by going on Twitter and telling dissenters to fuck off and calling them douches, making sure that the NFL would never give him a chance to redeem himself (or get to use that Jay Cutler zinger he was totally waiting to unleash).

Seriously, that all happened. I didn’t just make it up. I swear. Well, besides that last part.

And to think, instead of being the voice of the UFC, Mike could have been the voice of WWE, as he was offered a contract in 2005 to become the new lead voice of Raw when WWE was moving back to the USA Network and Vince McMahon was ready to retire Jim Ross…the first time.

But, instead of wanting to be as lauded and praised as Michael Cole is among pro wrestling fans, Mike chose to stay put and make history with Joe Rogan instead. Seems like it worked out for him.

Or it did until his recent canning.

We don’t know exactly why Goldberg is leaving the promotion, although hints have been dropped that he wasn’t liked by the new owners and that his exit is the first step in establishing the UFC’s broadcast “dream team” for 2017, whoever that may consist of.

I mean, I would assume that Jon Anik will take over Mike’s role in the interim, although, for as knowledgeable as Anik is about the sport, I don’t know if a business executive would agree that the UFC A Team play-by-play guy should be someone with the voice of a 13 year-old-girl going through puberty.

Still, he’s a better option than Jim Rome, that’s for sure. And Todd Grisham is a nice pick up for the UFC but it’d be weird to thrust him into that spotlight so quickly.

Well, whoever UFC chooses to ultimately fill the chair of the Ultimate Fighting Commentator, they will have some big shoes to fill.

Regardless of how you felt about Mike Goldberg’s work, he was still the only voice most of us knew for the biggest MMA show in town and it’s going to be weird hearing anyone else opening a UFC Payperview.

You could say that, good or bad, Mike Goldberg was a unique personality, one that was second to none and unlike anything you heard from his peers.

That’s right. When it came to his broadcasting style, one thing you could never say about Mike Goldberg was that he was “virtually identical” to anyone else.

Thank you, Goldie, for all your years of loyalty and enthusiasm for this sport we all love. I can only hope that, wherever you go from here and whatever you do, may your precision always be precise.

Evan Zivin has been writing for 411 MMA since May of 2013. Evan loves the sport, and likes to takes a lighthearted look at the world of MMA in his writing…usually.

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Mike Goldberg, Evan Zivin