Las Vegas, NV — UFC analyst Laura Sanko has seen her following online blow up in recent months, thanks to a bit of lighthearted fun with UFC welterweight Shavkat Rakhmonov.
During the UFC 279 weigh-in show, Sanko joked that Shavkat “gives me chills” — in regards to his perfect 16-0 (at the time) record, which included a 100% finish rate.
Back at UFC 285 in March, Rakhmonov was asked by Cageside Press about Sanko saying she was “impressed” by the Kazakh fighter. In response, via translator, Shavkat stated that “as a man, you always like when a woman adores you.”
Things sort of blew up from there.
“I almost forgot you were responsible for that. You asked one question and the whole world lights on fire,” Sanko told us at this year’s 15th Annual World MMA Awards, assuring us that no apologies were necessary. “It was certainly blown out of proportion, but that’s okay, I got quite a bit of Instagram following out of it. I will say this, the Kazakh fans are absolutely amazing, and I’ve kind of fallen in love with the idea of Kazakhstan and even Shavkat related.”
The larger following is a bonus, but Sanko’s profile was expected to grow anyway. She’s become the second female analyst to appear on UFC events as part of the on-air commentary team, and the first to do so on multiple occasions, following in the footsteps of Kathy Long.
That said, she also understands critics who were reluctant to embrace her addition to the broadcast team.
“We all like things to stay the same way, especially if we like the way things are. And something new can feel unwanted. Unnecessary. Why are we doing this? I get that, I genuinely understand it,” stated Sanko. “But for a sport that puts its female athletes on the same platform as its male athletes, for a sport that I think has done the best job creating equity between the athletes, it only makes sense to have representation in the broadcast booth.”
“It wasn’t necessarily about me being a woman. Obviously that’s part of the story, but I really just wanted to go out there and a be the voice of a fan, and it just so happens to be a female voice.”
Watch our full interview with UFC analyst Laura Sanko above.