With a forceful front kick, Mike Goldberg backs up his opponent before he unleashes a powerful right cross. Undaunted his opponent steps forward, then Goldberg fires off a left jab, that's quickly blocked, an overhand right that grazes its target, and a roundhouse kick that misses. A quick jab, cross, hook combo hits its mark, and Goldberg nods with the steely resolve of a seasoned mixed martial arts fighter.
Goldberg is throwing combo after combo, kick after kick, while at the receiving end is Goldberg's trainer, Jason Bress of Jab Fitness. Goldberg, the silky smooth play-by-play voice of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), is not turning in his microphone for the ring. On this sunny February afternoon in Phoenix, Goldberg is practicing Muy Thai, one of his favorite ways to keep in shape between UFC events on the road.
Goldberg, who lives with his wife Kim and two kids in Arizona, works out several days a week with Bress. He's been training in Muy Thai for 4 to 5 years. For Goldberg, the martial arts training has been beneficial to his health, as well as his job as a UFC announcer.
"Muy Thai is great for my conditioning and cardio, and it's enjoyable," Goldberg said. "Plus it really helps me become more educated as a broadcaster. This way, I know the basics and what fighters are going through."
Mike Goldberg's name has become synonymous with the UFC, serving as the lead play-by-play announcer – working alongside color analyst Joe Rogan. Goldberg's rise to fame has coincided with the sports mercurial rise in popularity. He actually came from a hockey background, having done about 600 NHL games for the Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild and ESPN 2. After the Detroit Red Wings failed to re-new his contract in 1997, he explored other career options. That's when the UFC came calling.
Replacing former play-by-play announcer Bruce Beck, Goldberg first joined UFC in 1997 for UFC: Ultimate Japan (billed as "UFC 15.5"), which was the organization's debut outside the United States. Upon his arrival in Yokohama, he spent a few hours getting a hands-on jiu-jitsu demonstration from UFC referee Big John McCarthy, to get acclimated to the sport.
Goldberg has an appreciation of how far the UFC has come since that debut ... he remembers the salad days of the fledgling organization.
"I've been through the dark days if you will," said Goldberg. "I'd been through going to the arenas down in Alabama or in Mississippi and everyone thinking this was going to be the last show."
For more than a decade, Goldberg and Rogan have called the epic moments in the careers of UFC legends like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, BJ Penn, and many more. Rogan also began working for the UFC in 1997, so the two have developed a great chemistry that has evolved with the sport.
"I think it's something natural and something you can't manufacture," Goldberg said. "In life, we're different people. Joe is a comedian and is out there. I'm a sports guy who likes all sports, while Joe only likes fighting. Joe and I have always have had a good relationship and really good chemistry. I know Joe's strengths and he knows mine. I have no ego in there; I set Joe up. My real goal is to make Joe the star on every night. To tee it up and make it easy for him to feel comfortable in the booth, so Joe can do what he does best and that is analyze fights."
In 2005, Goldberg's UFC broadcasting career nearly came to an end when World Wrestling Entertainment (yes, that WWE, the one owned by Vince McMahon) offered Goldberg a very lucrative contract to become the voice of WWE Raw.
"The WWE was first-class in the way they came after me, and not just the offer but ... how they saw me being a real key to what they thought was a repositioning of Monday Night Raw," Goldberg recalled. "But I felt like I had been on this ride in the UFC for so long. It was like I was on this cruise and we were about to stop at this beautiful island, but I didn't know where it was and I didn't want to jump ship. Somehow I wanted to finish the journey and I wanted to see where it was going to go. It just didn't feel right to leave, and as I look at it now, thank goodness I didn't."
An entire generation of UFC fans are thankful that Goldberg stayed the course.
Goldberg is a hockey guy not only as a broadcaster, but also as a former player. Goldberg digs mixed martial arts and the sport has given him fame and a lucrative profession; but hockey is his passion. A former college hockey player, Goldberg is proud to wear his hockey badge of honor - he won't hesitate to pull out his front dentures to show off his hockey smile, sans a few teeth. He still plays hockey in men's recreation leagues in the Phoenix area.
Now 46, Goldberg understands the importance of proper fitness and nutrition.
Muy Thai is only the beginning for Goldberg. He also trains at Triple Threat Performance in Tempe, Ariz., under the watchful eye of owner/director Ethan Banning, who has clear cut goals for Goldberg.
"Mike is trying to lose some weight and fat, and gain some muscle," said Banning, who trains numerous high-profile athletes. "Mike has tremendous work ethic and toughness given his background as a college hockey player. He also has a nice strength base."
"For most of Mike's training, we have been working on increasing his work capacity, improving his functional movement, and creating structural balance," Banning continued. "That said, Mike was strong in the 'mirror muscles' when I got him. His posterior chain was particularly under developed and both hips were super tight."
Banning's progressions with Goldberg (and almost everyone else he trains) is to use body-weight isometric exercises (static holds) to evaluate structural imbalance, develop relative strength, increase technical proficiency, and develop connective tissue strength. After laying the appropriate foundation and creating structural balance, he then begins adding external resistance and dynamic exercises to his training regime. Banning's workout regiment has a heavy dose of stretching, calisthenics, and cardio exercises.
On lower body days, Banning will force Goldberg to break a sweat with old-school exercises like squats, lunges, hip/back extensions and Romanian dead lifts that develop his hips, hamstrings and erectors.
On other days, Banning pushes Goldberg through a steady routine of exercises to develop his upper back, mid traps, lats and rear deltoids: dumbbell rows, chin-ups, pull-ups, as well as various external rotation and retraction exercises like face pulls, band pull aparts, and a variety of dumbbell raises.
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In a perfect world, Goldberg would be in the gym every day. But a busy travel schedule (UFC events are scheduled every 2 to 3 weeks) makes it difficult for him to work out as often as he'd like.
"Mike's travel schedule makes it tough to be very consistent," Banning said. "Ideally, I try to get him in here twice per week and three times when he doesn't travel."
Banning also preaches the importance of proper nutrition, and many of his programs incorporate training tables, supplementation and education. While Goldberg won't admit to having the healthiest eating habits, he's far from a junk food junkie.
"My biggest problem is that I don't eat enough," Goldberg said. "EB (Ethan Banning) always advises me to get something into my body every couple hours to keep the fire burning."
"Supreme Protein bars are actually perfect for that," Goldberg continued. "I can throw them in my gym bag. They taste great, they have 30 grams of protein in each bar. Supreme Protein bars are part of my routine now."
His favorite Supreme Protein bar flavor is Peanut Butter Pretzel Twist.
"They are really good," Goldberg said.