Throughout his nearly decade-long UFC career, Jon Anik has worked with a lot of different broadcasters and former fighters. Heading into 2022, the lead play-by-play voice for the promotion couldn’t be more impressed with the talent pool he gets to work with.
The past year featured the evolution of certain talents behind the microphone, while new voices emerged with new opportunities. When asked who he felt grew the most as a broadcaster throughout the year, he heaped praise upon a number of his colleagues, including a multi-time former UFC title challenger, as well as the first woman to sit in the booth for a UFC-presented event on Dana White’s Contender Series.
“That’s a great question and it’s hard for me to single out a man or a woman, but a quick rip, I would say I’ve certainly said about Laura Sanko that all she needs is an opportunity on a UFC Fight Night and I think she will shine, and she will become a staple,” Anik told MMA Fighting while appearing on Between the Links. “Anthony Smith comes to mind and I came across him calling fights when I was watching Jason Witt film and I was like, ‘Man, this guy is good. Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith should be calling fights,’ and then I got the chance to work with him on the ESPN desk. I just think he’s sensational and a great sort of juxtaposition and counterpart to Chael Sonnen, so I thought ‘Lionheart’ certainly emerged.
“It was certainly nice to see Angela Hill and Belal Muhammad get their opportunities. Chael Sonnen remains just special. People ask me, ‘Man, how do you call 15 fights and go up to host the post-show afterwards?’ Chael Sonnen is how. Chael Sonnen’s energy is how.
“I could go on all day. Daniel Cormier prepares more than he’s given credit, that’s for sure. Dominick Cruz is one of my best friends in the world and I’m excited for him to get back on a microphone. Paul Felder’s my boy, Joe Rogan, and on and on it goes. And [Michael] Chiesa, how could I forget about him? Hopefully he gets the chance to call some fights this year. Chiesa’s a stud and is just rabid in terms of his interest in MMA.”
Anik called many memorable moments throughout 2021, including the crowning of several new champions — including feel-good underdog stories like Charles Oliveira, Brandon Moreno, Glover Teixeira, and Julianna Peña.
While his voice has become entrenched with the UFC by its millions of fans around the world, Anik is not ready to rest on his laurels in his search for perfection.
“One of our producers, Mike Ricci, asked me recently, ‘Are we challenging you enough as the lead play-by-play announcer?’ And it made me think how challenging these live events are,” Anik explained. “Every one of these has their own challenges formatically in terms of sponsors and different deliveries, different elements at the top of the show that we might be doing. I guess it’s always striving for that perfect show.
“And certainly, you can argue for me that to go do pro football would be a real way to challenge myself. But for me, it’s definitely striving for that perfect show because we haven’t had one — and we haven’t necessarily been close. There’s always room for improvement, and any time we’ve had any sort of traffic jam — we’re trying to have a no-hitter, and sometimes I’ll joke with the truck when we lose it, ‘We just lost the no-hitter, boys,’ and I’ll hit that talk back button.
“But I guess it’s always about being more concise, continuing to provide the best possible soundtrack, for the championship moments specifically, and not step on anybody’s dick in the process.”
As the sport, and the company, continues to push forward into the future, Anik is well-aware that while he has found a sense of comfort and camaraderie with his co-workers and friends, he understands the the cupboard for crossover broadcasting talent is far from bare.
“I love all of these men and women and as much as I enjoyed Brian Stann or Kenny Florian as my primary broadcast partner back in the day, I’ve sort of wrapped my head and goodwill around the fact that I’ll probably have 25 different combinations when it’s all said and done, and I’m OK with that.”