Yesterday, we published Part One of our visit with UFC broadcaster Jon Anik, as he prepares for duties at UFC Fight Night this Saturday. Anik offered his analysis of the main event between featherweights Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson, some thoughts on the division, and his response to recent criticism about the UFC’s scheduling.
In the second and final part of our interview, Anik talks about Saturday’s undercard, as well as some thoughts about the UFC’s future. He also reflects a little on his own broadcasting career.
Caged Insider: How do you rate UFC Fight Night 57, or UFC Fight Night Edgar vs. Swanson, among the fight events you’ve been a part of as a broadcaster? Is this among the top half?
Anik: For sure. I’ll sound like a promoter here; but… you never know where the next star will emerge. There’s always another storyline to every fight. This sport just gives a lot of people the opportunity to seize the moment, so I get excited for a lot of different fights. But when you look at the top two fights of this card, Edgar and Swanson are among the top fifteen pound-for-pound in the world right now, and then Bobby Green/Edson Barboza is matchmaking at its finest – two outstanding guys, finishers who are trying to climb that ladder at 155. It’s a great main card, on a college campus, so hopefully it will be loud.
Caged Insider: Could you break down Bobby Green vs. Edson Barboza, why that’s one to watch out for?
Anik: Bobby Green is very much a strategist. I think he picks his spots well, and makes sure to stay active. But he’s very much a finisher, even though his last two UFC wins are by decision. Beating Josh Thompson has to be big for his confidence — a perennial top contender, a championship-type fighter in Thompson. I think Robbie Green has some of that big-fight spotlight under his belt now, he’s 4-0 in the UFC and won eight straight.
But, Edson Barboza to me is the more ‘electric’ guy, and he’s already in his eleventh UFC fight. Both guys are 28 years old. Barboza has been so close to greatness, so close to the top of the heap for so long. This is the type of fight he needs to propel himself. Normally when he wins, he knocks someone out. It’s with fanfare behind it, and he gets a (post-fight) bonus. So I’m excited, man.
There’s some good storylines on the prelims too. Luke Barnatt is a guy to watch at 185, and James Vick at 155 in a tough fight with Nick Hein. It’s a deep card, and certainly in the upper half for me.
Caged Insider: Some names I saw listed on Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card surprised me, like Yves Edwards, who I remember all the way back in the 1990’s — and there’s some new faces too. I saw Kailin Curran in a fight in Guam last year and she’s an exciting young talent. Who jumps out at you among the talent Saturday?
Anik: I like that women’s strawweight fight for sure. James Vick was on that live season of The Ultimate Fighter, and he’s still undefeated, coming off a very difficult fight, a character-building fight, in Brazil. He’s sort of a sleeper in the lightweight division, but then Nick Hein is very much legitimate and he could spring the upset.
Luke Barnatt has said he feels like he needs to finish Roger Narvaez, put the onus on him that this a guy the UFC expects him to finish. We’ll see if he can back up that talk. And, it’s always nice to get a couple of heavyweight fights. It’s not the deepest division so that can be rare, to see two heavyweight fights, and a lot of people have Jared Rosholt tagged as a future heavyweight contender — undefeated in three UFC fights. So, it’s a good card top to bottom.
Caged Insider: We talked before about how many events are out there — and things have changed drastically over the last five years in the UFC. How do you see things in the next five, not only in the UFC, but in your own career?
Anik: There’s four years left on the deal with FOX, so you’ll see more of the same when it comes to that. It’s been a great partnership, and I’m excited to see how the UFC can help FOX Sports 1 grow in the coming years. That’s exciting to be a part of. For me, I just really enjoy doing live events. I enjoy being in the studio but I’d rather be calling live events. I’m excited UFC is doing this volume of events, 45 live events all over the world.
Of course, I’d like to do every show right here in our home base of Las Vegas, Nevada. But it’s cool to see the world. To see all these fighters in all the different elements, it’s really a special gig. I’m thankful to be in the Mixed Martial Arts space.
When I got to ESPN — that was always the goal. I thought that would be the final stop. But this was a unique opportunity and I’m glad I jumped on it! I hope I continue to earn the job. I feel like every fight, I need to continue to earn the job. That’s my focus right now.
Caged Insider: Any particular trip that you recall as a favorite in your UFC career?
Anik: As an American, it’s cool to see cities I may not have otherwise seen, like Seattle. It’s a place I’d never get to but I really like. Australia was great: Sydney and the Gold Coast, very unique in their own right but really gorgeous. I’ve got a soft spot for Brazil, partly because I’ve gone there so often. — fifteen times now. I don’t want to upset the UK Tommy, so I’ll shout them out as well. I enjoyed Nottingham which people don’t always say is the nicest place. The cobblestone there reminded me of Boston too.
So — a lot of special spots, and more to come. It’s definitely an exciting time for the sport.