Regardless of how you feel about the phrase “Let’s get ready to rumble!,” it’s become an iconic part of our competitive lexicon.
It’s moved beyond the world of sports to any number of other “big event” settings, not to mention movies and video games, and along the way it’s put plenty of zeros in the bank account of the man who was in large part responsible for its popularity.
That would be Buffer, of course. Currently, Michael Buffer’s net worth is $400 million, so to say he’s got a golden set of pipes would be the understatement of the new millennium.
His path to celebrity as a phrase-dropping announcer has been a bit of a hopscotch affair. Buffer, who is 76, prides himself on being born and raised in Philadelphia, and his father was a World War II vet who enlisted in the Navy.
Buffer followed his dad’s footsteps into the military, enlisting when he was 20 and subsequently serving in Vietnam. After that he bounced from job to job, the most illustrious being as a car salesman and then a model, before he became a ring announcer at 39.
To say he found his calling in the ring would also be an understatement. Within a year of starting his career, Buffer was announcing on ESPN, handling all the Top Rank boxing matches sponsored by legendary promoter Bob Arum.
That national visibility caught the attention of pre-presidential Donald Trump, who hired Buffer as the exclusive ring announcer for all the fights in Trump’s casinos.
But Buffer’s golden pipes didn’t just impress The Donald. None other than Sugar Ray Leonard supposedly once told Buffer that “when you introduce a fighter, it makes him want to fight.”
From there it was a natural jump for Buffer to move to the WWE, where he handled main events that featured Hulk Hogan, along with many other celebrity wrestlers.
The WWE folded in 2001, but Buffer has never had trouble getting work. He’s shown up in over a dozen movies, and in 2018 he signed with DAZN to serve as ring announcer for the company’s boxing broadcasts. A quick listen to Buffer’s signature phrase—which he’s actually patented—makes it clear that he’s still at the top of his game.
The patenting was actually an incredibly smart move, and Buffer has capitalized on it and then some as his catch phrase has made its way into various video games.
The ultimate payoff came when a game maker, Midway, came calling and forked over $100 million to license his phrase for a signature game, which is naturally called $100 million.
While Buffer has had many moments of serendipity on the way to his success, perhaps the most amazing is the family connection behind his signature phrase.
Ironically, it was his half-brother Bruce who woke Michael up to the lucrative possibilities that went with the phrase and announcing long before Michael was successful, and Bruce became Michael’s manager and partner.
Buffer currently gets $25,000 to $100,000 per fight and he frequently jokes about wanting to retire, only to get sucked back into the ring for a big fight. He’s been married to his current wife, Christine, since 1999, but it doesn’t sound like she’s going to have him poking around the house doing retirement-type things any time soon.