Mike Goldberg set the mixed martial arts community aflutter earlier last month when he made an unexpected return to the UFC airwaves at UFC Fight Night 103.
It was a surreal moment when FOX Sports 1 cameras randomly spotted Goldberg amongst the crowd at B.J. Penn’s return fight in Phoenix, Arizona on Jan. 15 at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The on-air cameo came just weeks after the UFC unceremoniously ended Goldberg’s 20-year run as the voice of the Octagon, and when asked about the moment on a recent edition of The MMA Hour, Goldberg couldn’t help but laugh at his luck.
“B.J. Penn is one of my best friends. B.J. Penn is one of my favorite people in the world, and I went that night for B.J. Penn,” Goldberg explained.
“I also went to that fight that night in my hometown to say thank you, because going back to what you had asked about (UFC) 207, everything was very laser-focused on the direct people who were with me and back in the dressing room. I didn’t get (a chance) to say thank you to the Reed Harrises and the Joe Williams, and Mike the Photographer, and everybody else in the truck, because I didn’t see them.”
Goldberg is a longtime resident of Phoenix and said he was given suite tickets to UFC Fight Night 103 by one of his local friends. The event took place less than a month after UFC 207 — a show which marked Goldberg’s last as UFC play-by-play commentator after a two decade run with the promotion.
And while many people around Goldberg, including his father, suggested that it would be difficult returning to a live UFC event with the wound of his departure still so fresh, Goldberg said he took the experience in stride.
“We went around the concourse and the fans were great,” Goldberg said. “I was thanking them, they were thanking me. We did it again during the main card and we’re walking around, and I said, ‘I’m going to go down and try to find a seat, I just want to get a little closer to watch B.J.’
“Random row. I go down, I see empty seats. I sit down with these dudes in front of me, I go, ‘anybody sitting here?’ They’re like, ‘no, no, no. Oooohhhh Mike Goldberg! Mike Goldberg!’ Random seats, could’ve been one in 18,000.
“And I see the camera come up and the lights are on, I know it’s one of live cameras. It’s one of the Steadicams where they come around and get crowd shots. So I see the light on, I give the shaka. And this is what I’m thinking: ‘okay, they’ve spotted me in the crowd and the truck is saying hello. They’re in commercial break, because they’re certainly not putting me on TV. Of course they’re not putting me on TV. They’re in commercial break.’ So I’m like, what’s up? Because I think I’m saying hi to my buddies, Anthony Girodano and everybody in the truck. I’m just saying hi, right?
“Well, much like your phone and your Twitter, whoosh... and I’m like ‘what the?!’”
Goldberg said his social media immediately exploded as fighters, fans, and media debated over whether or not their eyes had deceived them and that really was the ex-UFC commentator who just appeared on their screens moments before the co-main event contest between Joe Lauzon and Marcin Held.
All in all, it was good fun for Goldberg, who said he enjoyed himself and the serendipity of the moment. And, in a roundabout way, he got a chance to deliver the one final on-air goodbye to UFC fans that he was never afforded at UFC 207.
"Imagine the production truck now: ‘Joe Lauzon!’ They go ‘take three’ or whatever to that crowd shot, and out pops Goldy,” Goldberg said, laughing. “Oooohhhh, just think about it for a second. One of 18,000 seats. One of how many crowd shots. They could’ve taken any camera other than that. And it was just meant to be. I mean, it was unbelievable. The chances of that happening… it wasn’t even my ticket. I wasn’t even supposed to be in the stands. I was ‘that dude’ getting past the usher, grabbing an empty seat to get closer to the action.
“And the fans were great,” Goldberg added. “(The reaction online was,) first off, what a great guy, he’s there with the fans, which I was, because I am a fan and I am going to support ‘The Prodigy,’ my buddy B.J. Penn. Second, why isn’t he on the floor? Third, I hope he didn’t have to pay for the ticket. It just got better and better. It was just awesome. I just shook my head, and right after that, I should’ve gone and played the lottery. I really should’ve put some numbers down, because I was on a roll right then. I really was on a roll.”