Laura Sanko has spent three days preparing to announce the UFC Vegas 68. action.
The gig is new for Sanko, 40, who’s set to be the first female color commentator in modern UFC history. It’s not the routine or nerves.
” I’m obsessed about watching films and trying to figure out how they set up submissions or prefer ways of entering the pockets. This is what Sanko said on Monday to MMA Fighting after she was promoted by the UFC. “My biggest coping mechanism is just to do more and study more.”
Sanko was in the middle of another UFC project when she got the call from producer Zach Candito that she would be the third person in the broadcast booth. Given that she had called the Road to UFC tournament with veteran UFC commentator John Gooden, it was an obvious choice. It was also an important moment for Sanko and the sport’s promotion. It took her seven years to get to this point after working as a reporter backstage at a UFC on FOX event.
“I have a hard time articulating this, because it sounds like I’m being dramatic, I guess, but I love MMA so much because it very much saved my life in several different instances and in a variety of ways that I don’t have the time to go into,” she said. “And so when I stopped fighting because I got pregnant and because there really was no goal for me as a fighter because there was no atomweight division in the UFC, it was super important for me to stay close to the sport, and the ultimate thing I think I wanted to do, and [like] for any athlete, the ultimate thing was to leave a little mark on the history books of the sport we all love so much.
“Seeing that tiny, intimate fingerprint makes me cry. It’s so meaningful. Records are incredible, but they can also be broken. There can only one record. And that’s Kathy Long.”
This is Sanko’s self-deprecating reminder to the world that she was not the first woman to take part in a UFC comment booth. At UFC 1, former kickboxing champion Long sat alongside Bill “Superfoot” Wallace and Jim Brown, dryly noting the absence of Teila Tui’s tooth after it sailed by shocked onlookers.
Still, it was just a one-time gig. The UFC opened its gates to women in 2013 with the addition of Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche, and yet it took 10 more years for one to get asked back with a broadcast mic. UFC Vegas 68 won’t be the last time that Sanko is seen by octagon-goers. According to her, she has already booked her next UFC event. That means she’s a part of the rotation as she already was for Dana White’s Contender Series.
She tells it to herself in order to relax between videos.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous,” she said. I want to make an impression. But that’s what I keep telling myself. The APEX is my destination. I’ve called plenty of shows. John Gooden and Michael Bisping will be my co-hosts. Mike and I have called many shows together, while John and I completed the whole Road to the UFC Tournament as a team. This isn’t a new concept.
” I feel responsible for this new role and think that commentary is an important responsibility. You are trying to bring the fight art that the athlete put their soul and effort into to people who can’t physically see it.
The ultimate goal for Sanko is to call a pay-per-view event. The cast of characters for major events has shifted in recent years, with Sanko’s colleagues Jon Anik, Daniel Cormer, Michael Bisping, Dominick Cruz and Paul Felder standing beside the promotion’s most stalwart presence on the mic, Joe Rogan. Sanko knows she has a long way to join that list, but she believes she and Rogan share an asset that translates to a larger audience.
“It is difficult to be compared to Joe Rogan because of a variety of reasons. But, on one level, I admire his journey and what I believe fans love most about Joe, which she stated was his infectious excitement whenever he calls a call. It’s how I feel when calling Contender Series fights. I hope it continues, as that’s what I truly feel. Every fight I call is a joy to me. It’s the same thing when I’m watching at home.
“The reality is I’m a fan who was so in love with the sport that I decided to train, and then I was so in love with training that I decided to fight, and then I was so in love with fighting that I couldn’t give it up even when I had to, so I went into this outlet. Joe is a great example of that. I think Joe represents that.