My life as a TV personality

BY foxsports • September 23, 2013

My life as UFC commentator and show host is vastly different than when I was a full-time fighter. Ever since being forced into retirement due to a back injury, a day hasn’t gone by where I don’t miss fighting. However, I am extremely thankful that I’m still able to participate in the sport that I love, MMA. Here is Part 2 of my article detailing my second love, TV commentary and hosting.

Kenny Florian, The TV Personality (2011-present)

Transitioning into full-time color commentary for the UFC and co-hosting UFC Tonight for FOX Sports 1 has been an awesome way to stay involved with the sport I have dedicated my life to. Both jobs, however, can be just as challenging.

With the UFC’s eight weight classes, a 135 women’s division and a growing roster of fighters, it's absolutely imperative to know who each fighter is and when we will see them in the Octagon. This means obsessively researching almost 400 fighters on the UFC roster. When I have an upcoming show to call with Jon Anik, I make a point to do my homework, watching footage of each fighter in the event to prepare myself. It’s important to know how they fight and what patterns the fighters are prone to, good or bad. This helps me understand their tendencies so I can better break things down for the fans and it also helps me see things before they happen on fight night. Luckily, I love watching fight footage, but it can definitely be time-consuming.

Another important part of getting to know the fight card is by meeting with Anik and the UFC's matchmakers, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby. Silva and Shelby always have valuable intel for us in those meetings. My favorite part of the meetings is when Anik and I go over the pronunciations of fighter names. We have a system now where the fighters themselves pronounce their names for us in recordings. I always laugh when people tweet us that we pronounced Palhares’ name incorrectly as “Paul-yar-ees”. Just because you heard it pronounced as “Paul-Harris” before doesn’t mean that’s the correct way to say his name. You've got to love the passion of the fans, though. Anik is always on top it--I’ve never met anyone who researches things more than him. He really knows his sports and when it comes to the UFC, he is like an encyclopedia on fight night.

When Anik and I arrive at the arena for fight night, we set up our stuff at the booth and get situated. We then get into makeup (Anik’s favorite part) and test out the audio equipment with production to make sure all is good. We do a ton of overseas fights, so the time change and travel can be hard to deal with. Coffee is my best friend on fight night since we are calling fights for six hours straight. That’s the equivalent of two Superbowl shows back-to-back. I don’t know of too many broadcasting teams that are on camera working for that long.

Working the international shows can be interesting. Anik and I will play pranks on each other and sometimes our environment will play pranks on us. In Fortaleza, Brazil, there was no air conditioning in the arena and after six hours of calling fights, Jon and I had lost about eight pounds, each. Audio and technical problems are issues that you also have to become familiar with while broadcasting. Like the fight game, you always have to be ready to roll with the punches. Aside from actually fighting in the Octagon, there is nothing more exciting than calling UFC fights live.

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At UFC Tonight, my role is a bit different. The show is taped every Wednesday over at the FOX Studios in Los Angeles for FOX Sports 1, and every Tuesday, the producers and talent have a conference call to go over plans for the show. Chael Sonnen and I give our feedback and information along with Ariel Helwani, Leeann Tweeden and Karyn Bryant. Later that night, we obtain scripts. Often times, the scripts still change the following day due to my personal edits, producer edits and late-breaking news. Along with making occasional edits to the script, I review the format, become familiar with it, do some research and practice any reads I have for the show.

When filming day comes, the producers and talent meet at FOX to go over the show in rehearsal. After the meeting wraps, we eat lunch before we head into wardrobe and makeup. Some days, I swap out Chael’s suit for a dress. He comes out all ready to go, and only after explaining to Chael that he doesn’t have to wear it, we all laugh and get on set.

As you can imagine, filming with Chael and the crew on UFC Tonight is a lot of fun. Sometimes Chael and I get quieted down for talking about fights too much and sometimes we even get yelled at for clowning around. It's easy to have a good time on the sets at FOX. Everyone treats us like family so pleasantries and jokes are always exchanged.

My prior role on UFC Tonight was strictly analysis. Since doing the show with Chael, both Chael and I carry the responsibility of acting as host and analyst. This is a unique role and it is one I am honored to have. As host and analyst, I essentially have to play a point guard role and also explain the technical side of things. I set Chael up to give his opinion, introduce Ariel Helwani, Leeann Tweeden or Karyn Bryant, I throw to commercial breaks and to different elements of the show like interviews and stat boards. And as analyst, I get to do what I am most comfortable doing which is give my opinion on fighters, fights and techniques. As a martial artist and fight nerd, this is my favorite part of what I do. 

For the most part, UFC Tonight is filmed live and like all broadcasting duties, you have to be ready for any and all mistakes whether it is on your end or the technical side of things. It doesn’t happen that often but our friend Murphy (ahem Murphy’s Law) shows up from time to time. This emphasizes the importance of really knowing the show well prior to sitting out there at the desk in case something does go wrong.

After filming is wrapped, Chael and I race to get wet towels to take the makeup off of our faces so we can be pretend tough guys again. We say our goodbyes and head home to get ready to do it again the following week. After some shows, I’m off to the airport to travel for a UFC broadcast. I couldn’t be happier with my roles as commentator and host. Both roles are challenging. I learn a lot every single show and I am always motivated to improve at it. I’m so thankful for choosing my path as a UFC fighter and, now, my current roles on television.

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To read Part 1, click here.



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