As far as American MMA fans are concerned, there aren't a lot of stars outside the UFC -- and there really aren't any fighters in Japan who have crossed over beyond the hard-core fans in the United States. But HDNet Fights, which owns the American broadcast rights to the Japanese promotions of Dream, Sengoku and K-1, may have its star: Michael Schiavello.
It's not often that viewers tune in to a sporting event to hear the announcers rather than watch the athletes. But Schiavello -- who has the combination of a great voice, a detailed knowledge of the sport and a good sense of humor -- has the potential to be the kind of broadcaster who makes people want to watch no matter who's fighting.
The above video shows the kind of thing you get from Schiavello: He calls Paulo Filho "the Amy Winehouse of mixed martial arts." He rips a couple of inactive fighters by saying, "The grandparents of Willy Wonka moved more often than these two guys." And so on.
The one-liners are actually less a part of Schiavello's style than the video might suggest, though. What really makes Schiavello the best play-by-play man in MMA is that he understands fighting and isn't afraid to call it like he sees it, even when he might ruffle some feathers. He goes crazy for exciting fights -- especially big knockouts -- but also offers candid assessments and biting commentary when the fighters aren't giving the fans their money's worth. Schiavello is the star of the show at HDNet, and that's a good thing.