The first time I saw Bruce Buffer introducing UFC fighters, more than 15 years ago, my mind flashed to Marv Albert. I remembered that I'd read or heard a story about the eminent basketball play-by-play man as a kid in Brooklyn, and how he and his brothers Al and Steve, both of whom also grew up to be sports announcers, would sit around their living room pretending to call games. That's exactly what one would expect from a family of little boys with big dreams.
So as I watched Bruce bellow out names and fight records inside the cage, I wondered if a similar childhood scene had played out in the Buffer household. I imagined Bruce and Michael Buffer, the iconic boxing ring announcer of "Let's get ready to rumble!" fame, taking turns giving a family pet or the standup vacuum cleaner in the corner a gala introduction.
It turns out, though, that there was no such living room arena, at least not one that the two boys shared. Bruce and Michael did not grow up together. In fact, it wasn't until Bruce was 30 and Michael in his 40s that they learned they were half-brothers, both offspring of the father who raised Bruce and whom Michael did not know. The family reunion came about because Bruce, a lifelong boxing fan whose grandfather -- and Michael's, too -- was the bantamweight world champion Johnny Buff, got to wondering about the man with his last name who was introducing the fights he liked to watch on TV.
"I used to get butterflies in my stomach every time I saw his name flash on the TV screen," said Bruce. "It just didn't make sense to me. I'd seen just about every phone book in the country, from working in telemarketing, and had often looked up my last name. You didn't see the last name 'Buffer' every day. "
Bruce mentioned his curiosity to his father during a car ride, "and it was a good thing he was the one driving, instead of me, when he told me what he told me," said Buffer. "I had no idea he'd been married before marrying my mom, much less that he'd had a child. I was, like, 'What are you talking about?' I mean, I'm not 12, I'm not 8, I'm not 2, I'm 30, and I've already got my life going on a path. Where do we go from here?"
Buffer weaves the story of that rerouted path in his new autobiography,
Buffer sat down with SI.com to talk about family and fighters, and the passion that connects them.
I've never been interested in copying Michael. His style is legendary. He's an icon. I think he's the greatest announcer in the history of sports. I wanted to have my own style. A writer named Frank Curreri said in an article that Michael is like a fine bottle of Bordeaux and I'm like a shot of Jack Daniels. I kind of like that comparison. I didn't want to be Frank Sinatra Jr. Just like Frank Sinatra, I wanted to do it my way.
To help me learn meditation properly, my partner at the time introduced me to an ashram in Pacific Palisdaes, Calif., where I went and studied for a couple of days. They gave me my mantra, instructed me to keep it to myself, and to this day I've never told anyone.
Taking somebody's chips at a poker table is very similar to beating him in a fight, at least mentally. You have to know when to be offensive, you have to know when to be defensive, you have to read your opponent. In a tournament, the way you win it is to have every single player's chips in front of you. That's a big adrenaline rush, aside from the money won. I need that. As a marketer, I've always loved the close. I love the win. I love the feeling I get from it. It makes me happy. It's an endorphin rush.