Over the weekend I had a luxury of interviewing ESPN employee and MMA Live host Jon Anik. Jon Anik has been with ESPN for a few years now and really has a passion for MMA. He sat down with me and I asked him some questions regarding many subjects.He is a very down to earth person and below is what Jon had to say.
What made you first get into the MMA scene and how do you relate to it to other prime-time sports in terms of popularity? (baseball, football, etc.)
I remember watching and enjoying UFC 1 live in 1993 when I was in high school. But at that time, I was much more focused on basketball and girls, so I probably didn't see another MMA card until about UFC 40. Once I got into broadcasting, I co-hosted a boxing radio show in Boston for about four years. The show had a relationship with several top boxing promoters, including Gary Shaw, who was getting into the MMA game with EliteXC. Shaw reached out to us and invited us to broadcast live from EliteXC's debut in Southaven, Mississippi. That was the first time I ever took in a live MMA event, and have essentially been hooked ever since. As for MMA's popularity, I think most would agree it is the fastest growing sport in the world. But that doesn't mean there isn't work to be done. Someone recently compared MMA's overall fanbase to that of the NHL. And, given the NHL's huge head start, I think that is a pretty good sign for MMA. ESPN's improved commitment to the sport will only help it become more mainstream and more popular.
You are the host of MMA Live. Did ESPN approach you to host or how did MMA Live come to a realization?
I was splitting time between ESPN Radio and ESPN Digital Media. My bosses knew of my affinity for combat sports and that I had covered boxing for several years. When the concept for MMA Live materialized, I was (thankfully) given the first shot and haven't looked back. Part of it was certainly being in the right place at the right time. But I have tried to take advantage of the opportunity. And more importantly, I've tried to do right by the sport and its great fan-base. Hopefully, my passion for MMA comes across on MMA Live. It's an honor to cover this great sport for the Worldwide Leader.
How is working with current fighter Ken Florian and fellow ESPN employee Molly Qerim and what do they bring to the MMA Live experience?
The best part of my job is the people I work with. Kenny and I really hit it off right away and have been dating ever since. That is a joke. But we both grew up in suburban Boston, so our backgrounds were similar. And we also share a sense of humor that makes working together a pleasure and something I really look forward to. Our friendship extends well beyond MMA Live. Same goes for Molly. She is a sweetheart and very talented, and it's been fun for us to sort of grow together at ESPN and with MMA. Also really enjoy working with Rashad Evans, Stephan Bonnar, Miguel Torres, Franklin McNeil, Randy Couture, and the rest of our MMA Live analysts/insiders. It's a privilege.
Do you see MMA Live expanding to possible remote locations for possible shows leading up to an UFC match?
Well, we've already been on the road for several UFC PPVs. We were in Las Vegas for UFC 91, UFC 94, UFC 100 and UFC 108 and we took the show to Philadelphia for UFC 101. We also plan to be in Montreal for UFC 113 and back to Vegas for UFC 114. Not sure what our presence will be at UFC 111 next month, but I will be there in some capacity. As the show continues to grow, I am hopeful that we can have a major presence at all of the big shows.
You also do the Sports Updates on ESPN.com what is a normal day for you like?
No such thing as a normal day at ESPN man. Right now, I am able to focus on MMA/MMA Live two days a week. I do a weekly chat at espn.com every Wednesday at 1PM ET and spend the rest of the day prepping for our Thursday shoot. The rest of my week is comprised of game highlights and recaps for espn.com. Some nights I will voice as many as 30 highlights, which really gives the voice a run for its money. We also do original shows such as the NBA Daily Dime and Fantasy Focus. And during the NFL season, I do game recaps with Cris Carter and Eric Allen. I enjoy being able to work in different capacities and will be expanding my role across other platforms in 2010. But one day, I hope that MMA can be my primary, if not lone focus.
ESPN does MMA Live now, do you want to see anything in the future regarding MMA Live going on ESPN?
Is that a trick question? Does the host of MMA Live want the show to be on ESPN in the United States? Nah, I'd rather us stay exclusively on the Internet. Hahahaha. Absolutely! As of now, we are on ESPNUK across the United Kingdom and ESPN Pac Rim in Australia and New Zealand. And that has given us quite a bit of international traction. But to have a time slot domestically on ESPN or ESPN2, I think, would do wonders for the show. We have a dedicated, loyal viewership on espn.com and for that I will always be grateful. But at some point, I am hopeful we will take the next step and get the showcase on the family of networks.
Jon Anik is featured on ESPN and the host of MMA Live. A few links to be in contact with Jon are below.