Sean Grande has been the voice of Bellator MMA since 2015, providing top notch play-by-play since being brought in after the departure of Sean Wheelock. As of today, however, it appear Grande, who also handles play-by-play on Boston Celtics radio broadcasts, has called his last Bellator bout.
In a heartfelt letter to fans sent to MMA Fighting, Grande tabs the stress of a busy schedule, family concerns, and the fact that there might be a name or two waiting to step into the roll as reasons for his departure.
While you can catch the full letter on MMA Fighting, a couple of key portions stand out, beginning with, well, the beginning.
My son is five and a half, and he is my life.
That seems like a good place to start.
I have a picture of him I look at quite a bit. It’s him pulling my rolling suitcase to the elevator, as I leave on yet another road trip. He’s smiling in it, as he usually is. Just happy to help.
That picture no longer makes me smile.
Sad, but beautiful. Grande goes on to say that the sudden explosion in the number of Bellator events, coupled with an increasingly cumbersome travel schedule with more overseas dates, definitely put a strain on him.
The deal I signed two years ago, to call 16 shows, half of which would be in the NBA off-season, would be taxing, but manageable.
You know the rest of the story. 16 almost out of nowhere became 22..23..24. A third of them overseas, two-thirds of them during the NBA season. Suddenly, Boston/Oklahoma City/San Antonio/New Orleans road trips, had intermediate stops in Torino, Italy or Budapest, Hungary. It quickly spiraled out of control.
How crazy was year two? Remember that 16 shows a year thing? This year we did 18…during the Celtics season. I ducked my head and plowed through. For the company, for my Spike teammates and mostly, for my son. I was taking red-eye flights overseas to arrive on the morning of a show. I was doing fighter interviews on bad WiFi Facetime sitting courtside in loud NBA arenas.
And then, the kicker:
Have no illusions. I didn’t, I don’t want to walk away. Certainly not today. I was ready, willing and wanting to continue on, as I promised you I would two years ago. My first choice would certainly have been to stay with the Celtics, while doing as many Bellator shows as I was physically and contractually able. But two things were becoming clear. One, the new Bellator schedule with its heavy Fall/Winter and international leanings were in direct, overwhelming conflict with the NBA. And two, I think we all agreed that the new Bellator, the 2017 Bellator has grown to the point it deserves a voice, maybe even more than one, that can make it his (or her) top priority.
A couple of MMA play-by-play veterans who recently ended up on the waiver wire, greatly helped me find peace with this. You’ll be in good hands, and I have a hunch old-school fans are really going to have a blast.
While it sounds like Grande was willing to try to make things work, it’s also clear that this might be the best option for all involved. Grande can now focus on the Celtics, and have more time for his son, clearly something he was concerned about. While it’s a shame to see him go — he and Jimmy Smith made an excellent team on Bellator MMA broadcasts — it also sounds like the new voice of Bellator will be someone very familiar to fans.
Mike Goldberg and Mauro Ranallo are top on the list of suspects. With Grande leaving prior to Bellator’s big show in New York City on June 24, expect news of who will be filling in soon. Bellator 180/Bellator NYC takes place at Madison Square Garden with a headliner of Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva. Mike Goldberg in particular has been linked to the company in recent months, following his departure from the UFC.
Meanwhile, hats off to Sean Grande, who did an excellent job in his time with Bellator.