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From Abu Dhabi to New York, Jon Anik Is UFC’s Distinguished Soundtrack

The Weekly Takedown: the meticulous preparations of the voice of MMA, what’s next for Max Holloway and more.

Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s newest look at MMA. Every week, this column will offer insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.

Behind the magic of Jon Anik’s call

Jon Anik recently called back-to-back pay-per-views on back-to-back weekends, providing the soundtrack for UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 30 and then UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 6.

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The mellifluous Anik was a welcomed guest into the homes of fight fans as he detailed Kamaru Usman finally putting away rival Colby Covington and displayed genuine emotion describing the long-awaited championship celebration of Glover Teixeira. Anik called Khamzat Chimaev’s rise to ascent one weekend, then added a voice seven days later to the unfiltered violence of Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje as the two greats took turns drilling each other with vicious strikes.

A uniquely distinct component of Anik’s calls are his respect and admiration for the fighters, never losing sight of the people who step into the Octagon for a living.

“I treat every show with the respect and the energy it deserves,” Anik says. “I never lose sight of those factors.”

An integral part of UFC since 2011 and lead play-by-play broadcaster since 2017, Anik is so vastly skilled that he makes an extraordinarily difficult job appear elementary. That speaks to his talent, of course, as well as the unrelenting preparation he does in advance of every fight.

There were 28 different fighters on the UFC 267 card, followed by another 28 at UFC 268. Anik prepared intricate fighter cards for all 56 competitors, following his system of handwriting a painstakingly detailed card before committing all that information to memory.

The exhaustive process serves as a critical piece in Anik’s success. And while the Massachusetts native always makes the fighters the centerpiece of every show he broadcasts, he is quickly becoming one of the most trusted on-air voices in all of MMA. He builds that trust far away from the cameras, conducting his laborious preparation with a permanent fine tip Sharpie in hand.

“I have a system that requires me to print these UFC generated fighter bios, then I manually handwrite what I perceive to be important from those bios onto my fighter cards,” explains Anik, who possesses a fighter card library of approximately 6,000 athletes. “I create a new card for every fighter for every single fight, transferring relevant information onto the new card, which replaces the old one. It’s a process that goes back to academia for me and to the way I studied.”

Jon Anik writes out detailed fighter cards before each broadcast

Anik’s success is deeply rooted in his preparation, then further enhanced by his passion and charisma. And just as MMA is more of a team sport than many people often realize, Anik is grateful for his colleagues at the broadcast table, which include the likes of Daniel Cormier, Joe Rogan, Dominick Cruz and Paul Felder.

“I’ve had the great pleasure of working with 15 different broadcast combinations, and it’s my job with my skillset to play to their strengths,” says Anik, who can dig into the technical and cerebral aspect of a fight just as well as he can add some laughter to the broadcast. “They don’t get the shine when it comes to the Emmys or proper public recognition, perhaps because of the relative infancy of the sport, but our analysts are as good as any analyst in any sport in America.”

While the frenzied chaos of the cage ignites a passion in Anik, there is a price attached to his elevated stature: That is the time away from his home, where he leaves behind his wife and their three children, Riley (10), Tatum (8) and Hunter (3).

“I was crying in my hotel room in Abu Dhabi a couple weeks ago just thinking about my family,” Anik says. “Knowing I was going to be away for 16 days, that made me incredibly emotional. Yes, I’m pursuing my professional dream. I feel very blessed, but it’s hard not to think about the things I’m missing.”

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The 43-year-old Anik has worked his way into the top broadcast position in combat sports. He took lessons along the way from his undergraduate studies at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, his brief tenure studying journalism at American University, and a plethora of skills he still applies from his time at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. And while he certainly needs no reminder of the journey required to reach his current spot, he acknowledges it would not be possible without the support of his family.

“In an industry there is always more film to consume or another live event to watch, I can’t thank my family enough,” Anik says. “They’ve all made a lot of sacrifices for me. Fortunately, when I’m home, I can be omnipresent.”

Even while yearning to be home, Anik still delivers a call unlike any of his peers, that captures the effervescence of his work, becoming lost in the magic of a fight.

Though he does not typically call a Fight Night card leading into a pay-per-view, Anik’s next call will be UFC on ESPN: Font vs. Aldo on Dec. 4 before donning the headset the following week to call Amanda Nunes at UFC 269.

“I feel very lucky to do this,” Anik says. “I know this falls on deaf ears sometimes, but you never know how long this is going to last. That’s why I treat every show like it’s my last and give it everything I have.”


Max Holloway ready for trilogy vs. Alexander Volkanovski

Max Holloway returned to the cage in the exact manner he left last January: with another victory.

Holloway (23–6) picked up his second consecutive unanimous decision win—and second straight Fight of the Night honors—when he defeated Yair Rodríguez on Saturday.

Despite taking the loss, Rodríguez (13–3, 1 NC) looked outstanding, clearly taking advantage of the time off since he last fought in October 2019. His striking was sharp, and his approach was undoubtedly a matchup problem for Holloway. Yet despite Rodríguez’s impressive showing, Holloway was still too much. He controlled the ground time by more than five minutes and landed more significant head strikes and body strikes, completely reasserting himself as a force in the cage.

While other options certainly exist for Holloway, the one that makes the most sense is the trilogy fight against Alexander Volkanovski. The first two have gone Volkanovski’s way, once unanimously and then by split decision. There is genuine interest in a third meeting, and the winner of the trilogy would have the potential of a massive bout against Henry Cejudo.


The Pick ’Em Section

Here are my picks for this weekend’s fights:

UFC women’s bantamweight bout: Ketlen Viera vs. Miesha Tate
Pick: Miesha Tate

UFC welterweight bout: Michael Chiesa vs. Sean Brady
Pick: Michael Chiesa

UFC men’s bantamweight bout: Rani Yahya vs. Kang Kyung-Ho
Pick: Rani Yahya

UFC women’s flyweight bout: Joanne Calderwood vs. Taila Santos
Pick: Taila Santos

UFC men’s bantamweight bout: Davey Grant vs. Adrian Yanez
Pick: Adrian Yanez

Last week: 4–2

Current record: 49–27

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.