Recently, HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant retired from his position as color commentator for the network, leaving behind some very big shoes to fill.
Many have negative opinions about Merchant, but he was one of the most erudite voices to call the fights for our generation.
He was bold, mainly because his knowledge of the sport was sound and he came from an era that understood that more often than not, it is the hard questions that need to be asked, not the popular ones.
Taking his place will be a host of other commentators, all of them special in their own way, which got me to thinking about the UFC and their team of two: Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg.
Given how the company is growing, there will be more chances to introduce additional talent to the booth and it is in the spirit of wonder that we give you a list of five men we would love to see as color commentators.
As a longtime fan of MMA, it would be fun to learn just how deep Jason Statham’s understanding of the sport is and what better way than to have him working alongside Joe Rogan and Goldie?
Yes, this one is more of a curiosity, really, but why not?
The last time I remember Statham making any kind of informed predictions was before Tito Ortiz tried to defend his title against Randy Couture at UFC 44.
Statham was one of the only people interviewed who didn’t pick Ortiz to win, simply opting to compliment both men and closing by saying: “Who knows?”
Besides, he’d be great as a color commentator the next time Michael Bisping fights on a UFC card in England, because the pressure would be on for him to hype up his countryman while still remaining unbiased.
There is something about Firas Zahabi that speaks to the fan in all of us that appreciates a hard-nosed trainer who has a wealth of knowledge about the sport.
Zahabi has proven that he knows how to take that knowledge and help turn the fighters under his wing into beasts, so it isn’t hard to believe that he could use that expertise in the booth.
Zahabi also has a Max Kellerman-ish aspect about him that isn’t afraid to answer hard questions or give unpopular answers if he thinks they are the truth, which would be perfect in giving the commentating team of Rogan and Goldberg the authority it needs.
One of the biggest names in the sport of boxing (for his generation), Mike Tyson is also a fan of the sport of MMA and a good friend of Dana White, so getting him into the booth may not be as hard as people think.
Given that Tyson is all about finding the joy in life these days, as a commentator he would not only be fun to have calling the fights but he could bring some rare insight to the commentary.
For a very long time, Tyson was a serious student of the game of boxing and its history.
Whenever there is a legend of combative sport on hand, the amount of personal experience that can be drawn upon is always enlightening and often humorous as well.
Incredibly well spoken, many have always assumed that Chael Sonnen would be a natural as a color commentator, and now we know it to be true thanks to his joining the booth at UFC on FOX 6 in Chicago.
He’s smart, honest, passionate and funny, and his understanding of the sport would lend a kind of gravitas to the event that’s hard to come by these days, and that should see him joining up with Rogan and Goldberg far more often.
Also, he can go toe-to-toe, quip-for-quip with Rogan on just about any subject, and it would likely be hilarious the more time he spends in such a hot seat.
Although Bernard Hopkins has been critical of the sport of MMA on more than one occasion, he has also rubbed elbows with the likes of Randy Couture and Rashad Evans, lending the latter some tips about the boxing aspect of MMA.
As a color commentator, he could do the same thing for the MMA audience, because let’s face it, few are as knowledgeable about the sweet science as Hopkins.
And his blunt assessments of the fights would keep things interesting and educational all at the same time.