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Mike Goldberg reveals his ‘great moment of closure’ with Dana White after unceremonious UFC exit

Twenty-five years ago, UFC history was made.

Held on Dec. 21, 1997, UFC Japan: Ultimate Japan may be best remembered for the UFC debuts of MMA legends Kazushi Sakuraba and Frank Shamrock, but the event featured a special debut in the broadcast booth as well: Longtime UFC commentator Mike Goldberg. By replacing Bruce Beck on the play-by-play call, Goldberg kicked off a two-decade run that saw him emerge as a beloved figure for the promotion, with the pairing of him and Joe Rogan establishing themselves as the voices of the UFC for a new generation of fight fans.

By the time he left in 2017, Goldberg’s many catchphrases had become synonymous with the UFC and his voice was the soundtrack to many of the sport’s most iconic moments. His exit, however, was not befitting of a man who had dedicated 20 years of service to the company. Following his final show at UFC 207, Goldberg was not given an opportunity to say goodbye to the audience. There was no sendoff tribute prepared by the UFC, nor even a mention of his departure on the broadcast. It was as if UFC 207 was any other event.

That callousness initially left Goldberg and his family both hurt and disappointed, however Goldberg said Wednesday on The MMA Hour that in the five years since, he has come to look back on his 20-year UFC tenure with much warmer feelings than he did in 2017.

“Blessed,” Goldberg said on The MMA Hour, “and much more appreciative than maybe I was at the time. And I say that because I know you and many others can relate — when you’re so darn busy, and you’re trying to learn and you’re traveling and you’re doing the next fight and the next fight and the next fight, you don’t really step back. You’re amongst those trees and you don’t step back and you don’t take that view at the forest. And so, was I always honored, blessed and appreciative? Of course I was. But now I cherish it much more.

“I’m very proud of the time that I spent with the UFC,” Goldberg continued, “and that took some time for me as a person and as a man, to be able to reflect on the positives, once the sting of the negatives and obviously the sale and then the non-renewal of my contract — those go away over time. And you have fans hit you at different times and places, and fighters — like the podcast I just did with ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley, where he asked me to call a fight, and I do, and it pretty much goes viral. And he’s loving me and I never called one of Sean’s fights. He came to the UFC after I had departed.

“I am so appreciative because there’s so much in my life that I have experienced, so much in my life that my family has experienced, and so much of my life that I have today because of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. And so it’s nothing but respect, it’s nothing about well wishes, and it’s nothing but thankfulness, especially on a day like today. Did it take some time? Yeah, it took a little bit of time to get that sting away. But I was never unappreciative — I was just hurt. I was hurt. And I was saddened by the fact that I had such a great gig with great people, and that I no longer was able to do it.”

Goldberg has continued to find success outside of the UFC. He served as a play-by-play man for Bellator from 2017-21 and currently works in both boxing and bare-knuckle boxing.

He remains beloved by both fans and fighters who flocked to the sport during his time in the UFC’s broadcast booth, and that love was on full display earlier this month when top bantamweight contender Sean O’Malley asked Goldberg to commentate over a replay of O’Malley’s 2020 knockout win over Eddie Wineland. The clip went viral on a variety of social media platforms and even introduced Goldberg to a new generation of UFC fans.

Goldberg also had a chance to make amends with UFC president Dana White.

Back in 2017, Goldberg admitted to being surprised and disappointed to have not heard from or spoken to White at any point regarding the UFC’s decision to not renew his contract following its sale to WME-IMG for more than $4 billion. Luckily, both men had a second chance a few years ago in Las Vegas, and at the urging of Goldberg’s son, the veteran commentator took advantage of the opportunity. Now, he’s glad that he did.

“It was kind of crazy, because I would like to run that one back [from 2017],” Goldberg said. “Because the whole ‘Did Dana say anything [when I left],’ I mean, it was an awkward situation. [UFC producer] Craig Borsari was wonderful. The hugs, the tears, everything was there. I should have been the guy to be proactive and walk up and thank Dana, as I look back at it. I should have done that. I should have said, ‘Dana, thank you.’ Because business is business.

“And when I saw Dana about, I’m going to say probably about a year-and-a-half later — so this was after my departure — we were in Las Vegas, my son had a hockey tournament and I was coaching. We were staying at Red Rock, still using those Fertitta connections, of course. And I walk out and I see Dana in the valet area with a couple of buddies and he’s getting into his car, he’s leaving probably after a dinner or a little bit of gambling as we know with the UFC president Dana White. And my son Cole looks at me, he goes, ‘Dad, that’s Dana.’ And honestly, I froze. I did not know what to do.

“Do I say hello? Do I not? What do I do?” Goldberg continued. “And I’m usually a guy who’s got a pretty good instinct. And my son, God bless him, he’s like, ‘Dad, go say hi.’ And I did and I shook his hand and I said, ‘Thank you for everything.’ I said, ‘I hope we can stay in touch and I wish you nothing but the ultimate in success in everything that continues in the UFC, and always be thankful for it.’ So it was it was a great moment of, I guess, closure at a time, because of the way that the ending went. And like I said, I should’ve been the one to thank Dana and not waited and then have a little bit of negative come out of it. Because Dana White was great to me. He was great to me and he was supportive of me.

“He was the one who called me when I was going to go to the WWE and said, ‘Don’t go, we want you. We got you.’ Lorenzo is the man and I was Lorenzo Fertitta’s guy, there’s no question, but it was a good moment and I’m really glad that I walked up to Dana that night, or that day in front of the Red Rock. And I’d be kicking myself if I wouldn’t have. And I’m glad I did because it turned out well. But was there a little fear and trepidation? Absolutely.”

All in all, even though he may no longer tune in to ever UFC show, MMA remains a part of Goldberg’s life and legacy in a way that transcends however messy things may have gotten by the end.

So on the 25th anniversary of his UFC debut, Goldberg is nothing but thankful for his two decades spent calling some of the most legendary fights in UFC history.

“MMA will always be special to me,” Goldberg said.

“I’ll always appreciate the athletes and always appreciate those who are part of my family, and always the fans, because the fans remind me at various times that I did OK — I did OK, and they enjoyed what I did, and they appreciate it. Can I watch every single show now? No, I don’t think anybody can really watch every single show out there right now. But do I turn it off on purpose? Never, ever. It’s a great sport, my friends are still part of it, and I love the fighters. I love the fighters.

“And I think about those fighters and what they’ve said to me over the years, and I’ve watched the next breed [come in] — and hey, Sean O’Malley’s call to come to his podcast and then reaction to that video, just reminds me that, you know what? A lot of the fighters still appreciate what I’ve done as well.”

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