The amazing story of how Bruce and Michael Buffer met, made a fortune and became known for introducing the likes of Conor McGregor and Mike Tyson in UFC and boxing
“I think it’s your brother.”
It’s probably not how a 29-year-old Bruce Buffer imagined discovering he was related to Michael ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ Buffer – aka the voice of boxing – but it brought an end to a long search.
Bruce had been watching Michael from the beginning when he first uttered the phrase in 1984 shortly before Mike Tyson injected new life into the heavyweight division in the late 1980s.
“I saw this man come out,” he told BT Sport. “This very handsome, debonair James Bond style man with an incredible voice.
“All of a sudden I’m becoming a fan and then he started putting his name on the TV screen and it said Michael Buffer and I thought ‘are you kidding me?’”
With his job in telemarketing giving him access to every phone book in the country, he scanned the pages to see who else shared his surname. Buffer didn’t appear anywhere, except for his relatives in Philadelphia.
“Who is this guy? I started getting curious,” he continued. “I called [promoter] Don King’s office and Bob Arum’s and found out [Michael] grew up about 20 miles away from where I grew up in Philadelphia.
“Long story short, my father and I are on a road trip to San Francisco and by this time Michael is as famous as the boxers. People are asking me if he’s my brother and I tell them ‘no, my brother is Brian.’”
Explaining the situation to his dad, Bruce asked if he had any idea who the man behind the catchphrase was and that’s when he got the very blasé response.
“My dad never told me that when he was serving in World War II he had gotten married at a young age, a son was born [on 2 November 1944] and nine months later when he came back they divorced,” he added.
“The last time he saw the child was when he was two-and-a-half.
“Michael was raised by foster parents under the name of Huber but when he went into the army during the Vietnam war [recruiters] saw his birth certificate said his name was Buffer as he was never formally adopted as Huber.”
So Michael Buffer enlisted and his surname remained with him ever since. And as his brother explained, this was lucky because they may never have met had he stuck with Huber.
They were finally introduced in 1989 and within a few years Bruce was managing his half brother’s career.
“I realised he hadn’t trademarked [Let’s get ready to rumble’] and had no t-shirts or hats, so I started getting passionate about this and had aspirations of becoming an announcer because I always enjoyed being on stage and talking in front of people,” he said.
The lightbulb moment came when he attended Evander Holyfield vs Riddick Bowe in 1992 and having watched the reaction his brother got from Jack Nicholson, Hulk Hogan and other celebrities in attendance he realised the potential of ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’.
He explained that instead of partying in Las Vegas after the fight, he went back to his hotel room and incessantly made three pages of notes thinking about the opportunities to cross over into other sports and guest speaking at corporate events.
“I told Michael ‘I want to make you richer than you ever dreamed and hopefully myself in the process but I want to become your manager and partner.’
“And we agreed, but I told him I’m going to have to give up everything I have and quit with the money I have in the bank and I’m going to go for it.
“That was then and we’re here today and I’m still his manager and partner. We have a fantastic relationship and I love my brother very much.”
The duo certainly made good on their promise and have built an empire, having banked hundreds of millions of dollars between them.
While Michael has cemented his legendary status in the sport of boxing, this week marked 25 years since Bruce became the ‘voice of the octagon’.
His own catchphrase where he excitedly screams ‘IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT’S…TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME” has become synonymous with the UFC and is the cue for fans to go mental for the main event of the evening.
He has already had a busy start to the year, introducing Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 on Fight Island January and the master of ceremonies at UFC 258 in Las Vehas last weekend.
UFC paid tribute to Buffer at UFC 258 and produced a highlight reel to mark his anniversary this week, while his brother was quick to pay tribute to him for his long service in the sport.