In 2003, a relatively unknown Canadian commentator named Mauro Ranallo was tasked to join one of MMA’s biggest stars and personalities in Bas Rutten as the broadcast team for Japan’s biggest promotion, Pride Fighting Championships.
Following years as a commentator for EliteXC and Strikeforce, as well as Showtime Boxing, Ranallo has focused on his pro wrestling roots, first as the co-host of AXS TV’s coverage of New Japan Pro Wrestling with former UFC champion Josh Barnett, and most recently as “The Voice of SmackDown” for the WWE.
Now, for the first time since Strikeforce’s sale to the UFC, Ranallo returns to MMA as he reunites with Rutten as part of the revamped line-up of Inside MMA on AXS TV.
During a media tour to promote his new role on Inside MMA, Ranallo spoke to MMAWeekly.com about once again returning to the sport, working with Rutten, and the praise he’s gotten from colleagues and fans during his time as a WWE commentator.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Mauro, tell us how you and Bas ended up working together the first time all those years ago in Pride and now getting a chance to reunite with him on Inside MMA now.
Mauro Ranallo: He and I had done an extremely low budget movie that was never released back in 2000 in my native Vancouver, where we surprisingly played broadcasters. The chemistry was immediate. We became really good friends. Bas and I reconnected in Pride and from the opening match-up to the end of the show, it was two buddies having fun, talking fights, and since then it’s been a good fit.
Recently, we started up a podcast that has been well-received, and now we hope that chemistry and camaraderie will translate to Inside MMA on AXS TV. It will be a different arena than what we’ve done before, but we’ll be hosting and interviewing and breaking down the stories in MMA with Ron Kruck and Kenny Rice, who is remaining with the show as a special correspondent. I look forward to the challenge and working with an amazing team and having a lot of fun with Bas again.
MMAWeekly.com: After focusing on other combat sports of late, how does it feel to return to MMA?
Mauro Ranallo: I still followed the sport as much as I would have been if I were still doing the daily show that I did up at SiriusXM in Canada. My focus had been on Showtime Boxing, Glory kickboxing, and now WWE, but I’m always going to be an MMA fan. I’m very close to the scene and maintain contact with the players, so as it were, so I believe it will be business as usual.
I’m looking forward to hopefully taking it to the next level, even within myself, now that I’ve been away from regular coverage. I want to tell these stories and know these individuals and characters involved that much better, and I think Inside MMA is going to be the perfect platform to do just that.
MMAWeekly.com: Is fight commentary and analyzation more important or is the human interest side of things for Inside MMA?
Mauro Ranallo: I think it’s a mix of both, but with Inside MMA being a weekly show, there’s a lot of places where you can get the breakdown of the X’s and O’s and who is fighting who and events, but Inside MMA can really sink itself into issues outside the cage and human interest stories.
I want this to be informative with journalistic integrity, but be entertaining as well. There are so many unique personalities and everyone has a life outside (the fighting), and I think the more we can get people invested into who these people are, the more it will serve them in their careers.
I would like to think the sport of MMA is on the cusp of breaking through to another level with New York set to hopefully finally legalize it, and the coverage we’re getting from the likes of ESPN and other mainstream media, we’re right there. I want Inside MMA to continue to be part of that and take the show into its next decade.
MMAWeekly.com: We recently spoke to WWE Hall of Famer and current NJPW on AXS TV commentator Jim Ross, and he had nothing but praise and joy for you joining WWE. How does it feel to know people like Ross and others are happy for your success?
Mauro Ranallo: I’m very, very blessed and humbled. It really is unbelievable that giants of the business compliment me and wish me well. Jim Ross has been a friend and is somebody I was influenced by. I will say that Michael Cole has been incredible in helping me succeed as much as I have during my honeymoon phase with WWE.
They’ve allowed me to be me – meaning the way I am with MMA, boxing, and kickboxing – in terms with how I tell the story or call a match. It’s been unbelievable for me to be part of it. To the crew, who puts the ring and staging together, to Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, JBL, Byron Saxton, Rich Brennan and so on and so forth have made me feel at home and part of the WWE family. If I get any support, it’s because I’ve been helped by all these people and given the opportunity to do this.
MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Mauro. A lot of fighters tell us that getting to the top of the sport makes them have to work even harder to stay there. Do you feel the same now that you’ve accomplished so many of your goals?
Mauro Ranallo: To me, this is just fuel added to the fire. I’m going to work even harder. It’s in my nature; it’s who I am. I want to get better. I’m not nearly as good as I want to be. And yet, I’m glad to stay challenged. I’m going to work at it 24 hours and one second of every day. I do try now to take time out for myself and meditate or exercise, but in terms of quality of my work whether it be WWE, Showtime Boxing, Glory or now Inside MMA, I hope the best is yet to come. I’m going to work harder now than I ever have.