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Bruce Buffer details harrowing COVID experience, ‘ready to roar’ at UFC 268

Bruce Buffer is out of the woods after missing his first numbered UFC event in 25 years last weekend at UFC 267 because of a nasty bout with COVID-19.

“I don’t feel ill effects right now,” the longtime voice of the octagon said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “I feel good and I think my lungs are 100 percent. I’m ready to roar.”

Buffer, 62, was a late scratch from the festivities this past Saturday in Abu Dhabi, with the UFC instead tapping veteran ring announcer Joe Martinez to replace Buffer following his COVID-19 diagnosis. Yet while the show moved on with Martinez handling the in-cage duties for UFC 267, Buffer was stuck dealing with his own battle back stateside.

In detailing his experience, Buffer said Wednesday that his health “got really bad” for about four days. He is vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and said he believes that fact prevented his struggle with the virus from becoming a far more dire situation. He also was able to secure “an IV bag” of the antibody cocktail produced by Regeneron, he said, along with as a regimen of “vitamins and minerals and vitamins packs,” which he credited for his recovery as well. Buffer noted that several doctors advised him not to take Ivermectin, the controversial drug Joe Rogan touted as part of his COVID recovery in September, so he ultimately opted against including that in his treatment plan.

Considering how he makes his living, the long-term damage many people suffer in their lungs post-COVID was one of his biggest concerns as the severity of his illness lessened.

“That’s one of the biggest fright factors I had,” Buffer admitted.

“I started feeling it in my lungs and I started coughing and coughing up stuff, like, ‘Oh man, is this going to go where I think it’s going to go?’”

Fortunately, that doesn’t appear to have been the case for Buffer. He said Wednesday that his lungs are feeling great and he’ll be ready to work UFC 268 in New York on Saturday.

But the experience of missing UFC 267 was still one that was difficult for a man whose presence has been felt at virtually every major UFC event for the last two-and-half decades.

“I don’t want to say it was painful. It’s just that I love being in the octagon,” Buffer said. “I work every night, I go out there to prove to myself, to the powers that be — like Dana, you, and the fans, and the fighters — that I deserve this job. Every night’s my first night when I step in there. It’s been that way for 25 years. So it was like missing the birthday party. It was missing the New Year’s Eve party. It was missing the party.

“And Joe [Martinez] does a very fine job. I’m glad that he represents the UFC the way he does. [But] that’s my office, man. And I wasn’t at work and it wasn’t fun.”

Buffer said Wednesday that he knows he’s lucky considering the many alternative ways his sickness could’ve played out. Frustratingly, he still doesn’t even know how he contracted COVID-19 in the first place. Buffer said he has been an ardent believer in mask-wearing and following proper COVID-19 precautions since the pandemic began. Multiple people who have been with him in recent weeks also ultimately contracted the virus, including Las Vegas-based magician Criss Angel, while several others didn’t, Buffer said.

“All I can tell everybody is that this is not over,” Buffer said. “If I get it, anybody can get it. You hear of people coming down [with it], Bon Jovi, on and on and on. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity — I’m not particularly a fan of that word, we’re people, we’re all equal in my mind — so anybody can get it. So just play it safe. And it’s no joke. That’s all I can tell you. I’m in really good shape. You know that. I take care of myself. I eat right, I train right, I’ve been an athlete my entire life. Yes, I’m 64. I don’t know what this would’ve been had I not had the [vaccine]. For me, I took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, right?

“The vaccine is not armor to avoid getting it, but it’s armor to avoid going into the hospital.

“My gardener died from [COVID-19],” Buffer continued. “I have six degrees of separation from at least a half-dozen people who have died from it, numerous people in respirators in the hospital. ... It’s no joke. That’s all I can tell you. I haven’t had the flu since my 20s, so it was like the worst flu you could have. The body aches, the headaches, all that goes with it. And then after, I think a lot of people probably suffer a little PTSD afterwards.

“It’s like, ‘Oh, yes, I’m clean. But is it OK to go around somebody?’ Now it’s like the fear of getting it again, because I know people who are getting it twice.”

In the end, Buffer is just happy to be able to be back to work on Saturday, where he’ll be introducing UFC 268’s stacked card inside the world’s most famous arena.

His absence at UFC 267 may have marked the end to a iron man run, but he’s perfectly content to kick-start a new streak that’ll hopefully last another 25 years after UFC 268.

“Yeah, my Cal Ripken streak is over, in respect to numbered pay-per-views, even though it wasn’t a pay-per-view here in America,” Buffer said. “But you know what? Streaks are meant to be made and streaks are meant to be broken — and I’d like to somebody try and beat that 25-year streak. Good luck to you, my friends. Good luck.”