Three “Huh?” Moments in MMA Last Week: June 19 Edition

Mike Goldberg and Mauro Ranallo have signed with Bellator MMA
Credit: Dave Mandel/

We’ll be hearing new, yet familiar voices when watching Bellator MMA from now on, while coverage of the sport may change, and the biggest fight of the year has been officially announced. Twist: it’s a boxing bout. Huh?

Finding the proper response to much of the news finding its way into our social media feeds is becoming a tougher task every day. Nothing is surprising, and there’s always more to the story. Leaving us with one reply: “huh?”.

Last week, Bellator announced the signing of announcers Mike Goldberg and Mauro Ranallo, a couple of names MMA fans will recognize. A group fans may not recognize, but likely will soon, is the MMA Journalists Association (MMAJA), which was formed last week. And a group dedicated to proper coverage of combat sports may not be a bad idea, considering we’re just a few days into the multi-month adventure that is Floyd Mayweather boxing Conor McGregor.

The reason “huh?”, in its various forms, is such a quality reply is simple. The word is as versatile as a response gets, and while it may require some explanation, “huh?” is sometimes the only way to react to the news of today. Defined by Merriam-Webster as an interjection that’s “used to express surprise, disbelief, or confusion, or as an inquiry inviting affirmative reply”, “huh” or “huh?” can mean a lot of different things.

Despite some of the follies of human evolution (see: Megyn Kelly), the development and growth of “huh” is something we should embrace. To be the change we want to see in the world, here are a few MMA stories last week that made us go “huh?”.

Bellator snags Goldie and Ranallo, then uses them wrong.

Less than 24 hours after former Bellator play-by-play man Sean Grande announced his departure from the promotion, Scott Coker and co. revealed that his duties would be taken up by a couple of combat sports announcers every fan will recognize: Mike Goldberg and Mauro Ranallo. The duo will make their debuts at Bellator NYC this weekend. But, maybe not in the way we all would prefer.

Goldberg was the long-time voice of the UFC, and has been a free agent since his final show with the promotion at UFC 207. Where he would land next was always going to be interesting, and the fact that Bellator is his new home ramps up the UFC-Bellator rivalry that’s grown in recent years. Ranallo is similarly experienced, with time spent in Strikeforce, PRIDE, and boxing. He was also a free agent after parting ways with WWE earlier this year.

The problem? They’re both play-by-play guys. And it’s sounding like they’re using their high-profile puzzle pieces the wrong way. That way being with Goldberg calling the fights, and Ranallo holding down the announce desk. Huh?

Now, Goldie is great. Er… He’s like family, at this point. But, whether you love or hate Goldberg’s style of play-by-play commentary, one thing is undeniable: Ranallo is better. That’s not necessarily all on Goldberg, who hasn’t always done himself a ton of favors in the spotlight. It’s just that, well, Ranallo is the man. Arguably the premier play-by-play voice in all of combat sports, signing Ranallo only to stick him behind a desk is a decision we’re still trying to understand.

Of course, there are plenty of details we aren’t aware of, and Ranallo’s various commitments could mean we see him less than we do Goldberg. Regardless, the signings are good ones by Bellator, and have us that much more interested in Bellator NYC this weekend. Goal achieved, Coker.

UPDATE: It’s nice to see that, whether the original reports were incorrect, or Bellator MMA has since changed its stance, Ranallo will be doing play-by-play for the Bellator NYC PPV, while Goldberg mans the desk. Getting both to share the load is certainly an interesting way to go about it. How this plays out moving forward remains a bit of a “huh?”

Introducing, the MMAJA.

While the athletes that comprise mixed martial arts seem to be further from a unifying body than ever, those who cover the sport are attempting to do just that. The MMA Journalists Association was formed by several of the major players from major outlets covering the sport today. Huh.

While this is obviously more interesting to those of us covering MMA, the impact the association could, and aims, to have on the sport could be big for everyone involved. The sport is still very young, and the way it is covered has grown and changed. MMA isn’t alone in adapting to the 24-hour news cycle, social media, and the rise of questionable journalistic standards. But, a group like the MMAJA could do a lot when it comes to creating a set of policies and guidelines for covering MMA.

As we sadly saw last week in stories involving Matt Hughes and Tim Hague, coverage of a sport where there’s more at stake than just wins and losses requires a higher standard of ethics than is commonplace today. The world of journalism, blogs, social media, and the overall impact of the internet on the coverage of any topic, is ever-changing. Having a well-respected, unified, and transparent group of MMA journalists providing some direction doesn’t sound like the worst way to navigate some of the sensitive subjects that come with covering the sport.

It’s early days, and the response has been mostly positive, but there are plenty of skeptics as well. Groups like this are dedicated toward the long-term, and patience is key for proper evaluation. Either way, taking steps toward legitimizing MMA, and it’s coverage, is a good thing for everyone involved.

Welp, it’s happening.

Although the entire situation is full of “huh?” moments, we’ve done a decent job of keeping the circus away from this column. Now that it’s official, we can’t really do that. Floyd Mayweather will be boxing Conor McGregor at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on August 26th. That’s a thing. Huh?

The deal finally got done, and it looks as though all parties are happy. There’ll be USADA testing, 10-ounce gloves, a boxing undercard, it’ll go 12 rounds, they’re fighting at 154 pounds, Ranallo is on the call for Showtime Boxing, and BossLogic has already released a poster. Sounds like a plan!

The problem? It’s more than two months away. That’s two months of mainstream media coverage, ridiculous hot takes, and some of the worst aspects of combat sports fandom. There will be fun stuff, too. The press conferences are sure to be stellar, as most things involving McGregor and a microphone are. But sifting through the nonsense will become (and is becoming) a hassle.

Unfortunately, with a bout of this magnitude, that’s the way it has to be. For a pay-per-view fight featuring one of the greatest boxers of all-time taking on a guy with no professional boxing experience to be expected to break buyrate records, the media coverage has to be incessant. And it is. Luckily, we have the spectacle that will be Conor McGregor attempting to defeat Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match at the end of the journey.

Heads down, friends, it should be worth it.

Bellator NYC will start a new chapter for the growing promotion in a variety of ways, including featuring the debut of two of MMA’s most recognizable commentary voices. One of those voices we’ll be hearing again at the biggest fight of the year on August 26 between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. But, it isn’t just fighters and promotions making major moves, as MMA media members take a big step toward an association of their own. Huh.