In a brief interview with BJPenn.com Radio Wednesday night, UFC commentator Jon Anik talked about his career with the UFC, from his indoctrination to where he is today, calling live events like UFC on FOX 7 taking place this Saturday in San Jose, CA.
For Anik, who joined the UFC in 2011, the move from ESPN’s studio show, MMA Live, has meant more live events and the opportunity to work even closer to a sport he loves.
“I love the job,” said Anik. “I always say it sounds tripe, but it was my dream job, and to be able to realize it was pretty special, given all the auditions and all the demo tapes I sent out, even applying for newspapers back in the day… Ariel [Helwani] is a good friend of mine, but we’re both doing different things. He’s a reporter, I came from a totally different broadcasting background, you know, and never even worked as an MMA reporter. I hosted a show at ESPN… For me to make the move from ESPN, which for a lot of broadcasters that is our goal and where we want to get to; candidly I never thought I would leave ESPN, but I wanted to do more play-by-play, and I wanted to do more live events. I got to do some boxing for ESPN, I got to do college football games at the end of my time there, but I wanted to do more live events…. That was the big selling point for me, as long as I was going to be calling 12, 15 fight cards a year, it was an easy sell. It’s been pretty great. It’s just nice to devote myself entirely to mixed martial arts”
Many fans think the job of commentating would be very simple; and it is for this reason that Jon Anik has received a lot of heat for a perceived inability to live up to Joe Rogan’s shadow. For Anik, however, that’s something toward which he strives, but he knows that he will never receive full approval with MMA fans.
“I’ve been compared to Joe,” said Anik about Rogan, “because I enter the ring, I do the post-fight interviews- and I’m never going to win that battle, and I understand that. He is a tremendous, dynamic on-air talent and is great at whatever he puts his mind to. I think a lot the hate and a lot of the venom from MMA fans really comes from the territory.”
In response to some negative responses from fans, Anik explained, “I think when you do play by play that really opens you up for scrutiny. You know, studio shows, people pay attention to you here or there. We’re on the air seven, eight hours- when you account for the pre-lims and everything- and you’re not going to be perfect for seven hours. Even this past weekend, I referred to Jon Jones v Chael Sonnen as the most anticipated fight of 2013, and I can sit here a few days removed from the broadcast and tell you I certainly had more anticipation for GSP-Nick Diaz as a pay-per-view… I just do my best to respond to as many people as I can, even the haters, so they think that at least I’m taking the criticism in and the feedback, especially when it’s constructive. I think it’s actually harder for my wife and my mother if they hop on Twitter to see some of the real hatred and unnecessary trash talk that’s out there. I don’t know, man, I was a lot more sensitive early on in life than I am now. I have a daughter, another one on the way, and it just doesn’t hit me as hard as it used to. I appreciate how passionate the fans are, and I appreciate when I get off the air that I have a lot of feedback.”
This weekend, Anik and crew will be headed to San Jose, California to cover UFC on FOX 7. The event features the lightweight title fight between Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez challenging UFC champion Benson Henderson.
Anik gave his thoughts on the match up, saying, “For Melendez, his wrestling really has improved so much. He’s bigger than he’s ever been, he’s stronger than he’s ever been. I was texting with somebody in Gil’s camp today, when you fight Gilbert Melendez you don’t feel like you’re in any sort of match, you feel like you’re in a fight, like you’re in a street fight. He just beats you up, it’s not like it’s the prettiest thing in the world. I do believe if he can get Benson Henderson off balance, then he can counterstrike and take advantage of any slight mistake, then he can be in this fight. But Benson is a guy who I just saw greatness in, really back in 2009. I understand why he’s the favorite, he’s an impossible guy to put away. With these guys, you got 20 title fights between them. I just think it could end up really just being a great showcase for the sport on FOX.”
You can follow Jon Anik on Twitter.
Be sure to catch UFC on FOX 7, which will begin broadcasting live at 5pm PT. Preliminary fights will air on Facebook at 1pm PT, and on FX at 2pm PT.
You can hear the entire interview which also features Kenny Florian and Darren Elkins here.