The UFC has a strange set up when it comes to who commentates on their fights. Unlike most sports organisations, they opt to use active athletes as part of the commentary team on fight night.
The majority of major sports promotions tend to use retired stars for this type of job role, however not in the UFC. Two-weight world champion Daniel Cormier, former bantamweight king Dominick Cruz and lightweight contender Paul Felder are some of the voices you’re likely to hear call an event.
For many reasons, this is not the best idea and UFC should reconsider this in 2020.
The most obvious issue with active fighters commentating on UFC events is the over involvement in what is going on. This can manifest in biases, its unavoidable and no fault to the guys doing commentary. However, it can make for poor product. As a fan hearing a commentator actively rooting for someone whilst in the booth is off-putting to say the least. The role of a commentator is of great importance and often shapes how many see an event. By having someone with clear bias commentating, you are promoting a false narrative to millions of people. Another issue with active fighters being overly involved in what’s going on is you get over-reactions. Whether it’s DC going crazy when anyone landed a body shot after his loss to Stipe Miocic or Cruz going off on rants about the importance of under hooks, its just not good to listen to.
There is a reason why this is not a commonality in most major sports. You’d never see Tom Brady or Lionel Messi doing booth work, so why is it ok in MMA?
In hindsight, fighters should focus on fighting. At the level they are at, it’s amazing they actually find the time to even do the commentary work. Whilst it may just seem like getting on the mic and talking, I can assure you much more goes into it. Things like travel, rehearsals, research and a lot of effort are all demanded within this job role, it isn’t easy. All of this could seriously hamper any future fight career these active athletes will hope to have. Whilst they are covering UFC event, their opponents are preparing for them. It’s a short career, active fighter’s need to be just that and avoid any and all distractions if possible.
Lastly, and most importantly, is the vast number of retired fighters who could do just as good and more than likely, an even better job than active fighters. By retiring and creating distance between themselves and the fight game, people like Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy, Chael Sonnen, Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin are able to provide much better content. However, these former fighters are often stuck with desk duty and it can be frustrating to see their talents go to waste. UFC should look to introduce more retired fighters into the commentary booth to create a much better viewing experience.
This isn’t to say active fighters should never be involved in the UFC productions. However, until they have hung up the gloves, it probably should be limited to post fight shows offering opinion, rather than live play-by-play.