Jim Ross played a huge part in my childhood, like he has for many MMA fans in their early 20s. Growing up, there wasn’t anything cooler to a 10-year-old kid than Monday Night Raw every week, and “Good Ol’ JR” was the voice of the entire generation, always siding with the heroes and chastising the evil Vince McMahon for all of the nefarious things he was known to do each week.

When Ross announced his retirement from the WWE a few weeks ago, it sent shock waves through the wrestling community. JR had not hinted towards retirement in the slightest, and his sudden departure from a company he had been on good terms with for nearly 20 years raised a few eyebrows. It seemed very bizarre that someone so dedicated to professional wrestling would walk away from the sport so abruptly, especially when it appeared he had no concrete plans for his future.

A few days after the announcement, Ross mentioned the possibility of getting into MMA. Predictably the MMA community met the news with a lot of negativity. It’s not surprising that MMA fans aren’t exactly receptive to one of the most recognizable figures in the pro wrestling world thinking about dipping his feet into MMA. The sport of MMA is still growing, and as the UFC attempts to take the sport to mainstream audiences, it makes sense to be skeptical about how a former WWE commentator would look as a play-by-play announcer for an actual sport. MMA is still battling the perception that it’s nothing more than a spectacle, and perhaps having a guy known for calling “Hell in a Cell” and ladder matches isn’t the best way to get rid of that reputation.

Still, even with the pro wrestling stigma attached to Ross, it’s hard not to appreciate his talents as a play-by-play announcer. Obviously, calling a WWE main event is vastly different from calling a UFC bout, but there are some skills that Ross could bring over from his wrestling days that would likely carry over quite well to MMA. That’s not to say that Ross’ experience calling chained wrestling exchanges between Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle is going to help him realistically call transitions on the mat in an MMA bout, but it can’t hurt. At some point JR had to learn the wrestling terminology in order to call an effective match, and it doesn’t seem like an avid MMA fan like Ross would have too much trouble picking up the basic tools in order to call a MMA fight.

If you look at the two men the UFC uses as its “A-team” on commentary, it’s hard to make a case that Ross doesn’t belong because of his professional wrestling background. Current UFC commentator Mike Goldberg was a hockey announcer and knew almost nothing about the sport when he first started with the UFC. Although Goldberg still has moments that make fans shake their heads, he’s become a solid addition to the UFC’s production. His partner in the broadcast booth, Joe Rogan, was an up-and-coming actor and comedian before he started working for the UFC, and although he had a background in martial arts and was a huge MMA fan, there’s no doubt the UFC could have found someone better qualified to work as a color commentator. The UFC took a major risk by employing both Goldberg and Rogan in the past and those risks have paid off in spades. Ross is a much safer hire than either Rogan or Goldie were back in the late 90s, and although the landscape of MMA is very different now, it’s hard to argue that Ross couldn’t be a viable asset to the UFC in some form or another.

Hiring Ross as a broadcaster may be a bit too much for some MMA fans. While it may just take some time for some members of the MMA community (myself included) to get used to hearing JR’s voice calling out kimuras and flying knees, some people are going to be unable to disassociate Ross from his former WWE ties. Much like when Brock Lesnar entered the Octagon, these fans will call a signing of Ross as nothing more than a money grab. Unlike Lesnar, who was given a chance to prove his worth in the cage and silence his critics, Ross isn’t going to be afforded that luxury. Being a good play-by-play announcer is a rather thankless job, and it’s nearly impossible to get through an entire event without making at least a few gaffs over the course of the evening. Although guys like Goldberg and Jon Anik are given some leeway with their occasional mistakes over the course of the night, the criticism for JR would likely be twice as frequent and twice as fervent, something that may just result in a headache for everyone involved.

If the UFC doesn’t want to deal with the potential negative reaction from MMA and WWE fans, the promotion may be better off hiring Ross in some sort of talent evaluation role. JR was a major part of talent relations for the WWE during what many consider to be the most successful stint in the company’s history, and although his skills may not completely translate to MMA, he could definitely help the UFC discover which current and future signees have superstar potential. Ross may not be able to evaluate a kickboxer or tell you exactly how good a potential UFC fighter is on the mat, but he thrived at finding athletes that could double as entertainers during his time with the WWE.

Although most MMA fighters—Chael Sonnen excluded—don’t go out and cut pro-wrestling style promos on their opponents before each fight, there are definitely guys near the top of the sport that could use a little help refining their fight promoting skills. That’s an area where JR knows more than nearly anyone. No one is trying to turn the UFC into a real-life version of Monday Night Raw, but when you become a high-level UFC fighter, promoting a fight is part of your job. Most fighters don’t love having to take time out of training and dieting to talk to the media, but the ones that do tend to end up getting more opportunities than many of their counterparts.

If Sonnen talked less like “The American Gangster” and more like Dan Henderson, there’s no chance that “Uncle Chael” ends up coaching last season on The Ultimate Fighter. Tito Ortiz remained on the UFC roster despite a 1-7-1 record over his last 10 fights, mostly due to the (un)popularity he earned as the cocky, charismatic UFC champion and rival to Chuck Liddell and Ken Shamrock. Obviously the UFC doesn’t need 200 Chael Sonnens or Tito Ortizes running around, but adding a few fighters that can be equally as dynamic with their mouths as they are with their fists can only help business, and Ross may be a guy who has an eye for that kind of thing.

Whether it’s behind a microphone (my personal choice) or behind the scenes, if Jim Ross wants to work with the UFC in some capacity, the promotion should welcome him with open arms. Even if JR decides to sign on and do a few interviews for Ultimate Insider or make a handful of appearances on UFC Tonight, he’s going to add some buzz to the UFC product and possibly even grow the already massive crossover that exists between UFC and WWE fans. Some fans may not like it, but there’s a place in the UFC for Jim Ross, and if he feels like calling a slobberknocker or two while sitting just outside of the Octagon, the UFC needs to give him a shot.

Photo: Jim Ross (L) poses with Jerry Lawler (Twitter.com/JRsBBQ)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.