Not much has remained constant through the 15-year history of Bellator. Perhaps now more than ever, the promotion faces major changes.
While the future remains murky with a rumored sale looming, it’s likely the voice of the Bellator cage, Michael C. Williams, will be around as long as the brand is.
Williams, one of Bellator’s longest-tenured employees, has been introducing fighters since Bellator 13 in April 2010.
“Not many things last more than a half-dozen years or so,” Williams recently told MMA Junkie Radio. “So I’m very, very, very fortunate in that respect, on top of the fact the crew, the production, the fighters at Bellator, it’s an incredible group of human beings. It’s been a blessing to be a part of it this long.”
According to Williams, there are only two Bellator workers who have been with the company longer than he has: producer Stu Wiener and a camera operator, Joe. They’ve been there since Bellator 1.
Williams onboarded during the second calendar year for Bellator, right before the promotion’s third season on Fox Sports Net. If he had his way, Williams would’ve been on from the start.
“I tried everything, including that, to get in for the first couple Bellators, at Bellator 1,” Williams said. “But the gentleman at the time, I’m sure you recognize the name Bjorn (Rebney). Bjorn was too smart. He sniffed out my little white lie, and it didn’t work out, so he brought me in for the start of the second calendar year, which was Bellator’s third season but their second calendar year.”
Former Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney at a post-fight press conference in 2013. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports)
Rebney was the CEO of Bellator from 2008 until his removal in June 2014 when he was replaced by Scott Coker.
Williams initially met Rebney through industry connections and was impressed by the former Bellator boss’ ability to see right through his fibs.
“It was a stretching of the truth more than a white lie,” Williams said. “…(Bellator) was done primarily in Spanish, and it aired primarily in Spanish language. … He goes, ‘I have one question for you. I know you work and I know what you do, but I have one question for you: Are you fluent in Spanish?’ And faced in that moment in time, what would you expect that I was going to say, knowing what the repercussions of my answer were probably going to be? Yeah, of course, Bjorn. Absolutely. Why do you ask?’ This was before the first season was even publicly announced that it was in Spanish. I didn’t know why he was asking.”
Williams chalks up his faux confirmation as a truth stretcher rather than a lie due to experience in nationally spotlighted professional boxing events in Mexico. It was one of his many announcing gigs dating back to his combat sports announcing debut in 1995.
Michael C. Williams. (Photo courtesy of Bellator MMA)
Williams estimates he’s announced approximately 260 Bellator events in his 13-year tenure, but it hasn’t been his only gig. For 18 years, he voice-worked Monster Jam, a traveling monster truck showcase.
Now in addition to his Bellator gig, Williams works as a voice coach, race announcer, corporate spokesman, and fundraiser emcee.
“The bottom line is, it’s not about voice,” Williams said. “It’s never about voice. … I spent the first seven, eight, nine, 10 years of my career basically just faking it, pretending, emulating, imitating, doing anything that I could, doing anything that I could that I thought announcers were supposed to do. I was trying to sound like I thought announcers were supposed to sound. At the time, that sounded very reasonable and made perfect sense to me. … And then there was some point in there I just realized there’s got to be a better way than this. So I went looking for training or coaching or mentoring, and there was nothing out there. I just became an absolute student of the craft.”
While he, like the rest of Bellator, waits for uncertain times to become more stable, Williams plans to enjoy every moment of the fight action he emcees – as he’s done from the best seat in the house for 13 years.
“One of the best things about this job is that you get to sit cageside or ringside,” Williams said. “You’re right there. I get hit with blood and spit every show. How great is that? I’m right there.”