The UFC wasn’t always the polished, glistening show it is now. On the road for most of the 1990’s, mixed martial arts was still the “wild, wild west” according to UFC announcer Bruce Buffer.
Buffer recalled the night that iconic UFC bad boy David “Tank” Abbott hit Vitor Belfort’s boxing coach Al “Stankie” Stankiewicz right in front of the announcer. Jungle Fight promoter and Pride veteran Wallid Ismail jumped in and hit Abbott, and a brawl ensued.
“That was pretty cool,” Buffer said of the brawl. “One fighter even turned around and hit me and apologized and turned back into the fight.”
Buffer has amazing stories from his decade inside the Octagon. “Some great ones that I can talk about and some great ones that I can’t talk about,” he said.
He cited early tournament champion Don Frye and early UFC heavyweight champion Bas Rutten as some of the “greatest characters in the sport of mixed martial arts.” He speaks at length about the good times and even the untimely deaths of former UFC middleweight champion Evan Tanner and TapouT founder Charles “Mask” Lewis don’t bring down Buffer.
“You meet these great people and you can’t help but feel their passing as well as their existence,” he said. “Evan was just so down to earth and such a cool guy. And the fact that he’s one of the few, if any, fighters in the Octagon that reached the status that he did [and] was self-taught is beyond belief.”
Buffer remembers Lewis fondly as well. According to the announcer, “Mask” cheered everyone at UFC shows, even Buffer. “I could always hear him, ‘Goooooo Bruce!’” he said.
While Buffer enjoys revisiting the so-called wild, wild west, he knows that those days are gone forever for the good of the sport. “We’re role models,” he said. “You gotta walk around treating people with respect as you want to be treated.”
That never was Tank’s strong suit.