A smile goes a long way, especially when you’re a public figure.
My odd journey from classroom to the MMA cage meant I was always careful about how I conducted myself. The way I spoke during interviews and how I behaved on camera were all part of the image I had meticulously crafted. Unfortunately, in keeping with my growing responsibilities in an extreme sport, smiling became a forgotten exercise.
Like most fighters then trying to eke out a professional career, I was content to let my fighting do the talking. What’s that saying again? Actions speak louder than words?
That was before I found myself hosting a travel show and increasingly now because of COVID-19, in the commentary booth. Both of these post-fight endeavors have seriously challenged my facial muscles to work like never before.
Talking’s the easy part. I had enough warmups simplifying math to high school students. Taking something complex and translating it into a concise message was my forte. It worked brilliantly for PR and dare I say placed me on an excellent post-fight career path.
Hosting a travel show seemed like more of the same. Between countless of retakes and shoots, just like any other prop on set, I hardly notice the camera anymore. Working with my team was fun. There were plenty of smiles to go along with light hearted banter and some good natured ribbing off camera. When you have nearly 40 hours roll of footage per show, happy moments aren’t exactly hard to find.
Live television and commentary as I quickly discovered was different. The benefit of post-production, in the case of OWS, allows for any imperfections – the ums, the likes or even forced smiles – to be edited or reshot. You don’t get second takes doing live commentary.
Attaining that perfect standard on the first try is tough, but that’s just the business of live television. In my efforts to be as polished as possible, I can come across too stiff on camera.
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Once, Twitter had a field day, no thanks to a perfectly timed photo which captured my trademark thousand yard stare in the booth. My deft feel for public relations did little to ease the growing pains.
But where would I be without the best co-stars one could ask for? Even though I’m technically the head of the commentary team, both Michael “The Voice” Schiavello and Mitch “The Dragon” Chilson are the true stars of every broadcast.
Funnily enough, during the early days of ONE, it was I who showed Chilson the ropes of fight commentary. Now that he’s got more reps in, things have come full circle and he’s often on the side pushing his cheeks up while saying “Smile Rich, smile with your eyes more, c’mon you look friendlier than that!”
There is no better compliment I can pay to Schiavello except that whenever I’m in the booth, it’s a front row seat to a maestro at work. Sports are all about creating memories. The great ones; last second knockouts or come from behind submissions, stick with us. Schiavello, who knows just how to own the biggest moments without overshadowing them, is the soundtrack to those memories. His strengths personify a strategy that calls for the bulk of our broadcast to funnel through his wit and charm. Without him, our commentary is neutered.
Both guys make my job so much easier and my role as the technical analyst means I am more than comfortable having Schiavello and Chilson take the wheel while I chime in with the occasional fight breakdown. Throughout it all, I orbit them both in a constant whirl of harmonious efficiency. While “The Voice” toggles between metaphors to describe the frenetic action on screen, “The Dragon” is furiously taking notes. Meanwhile, I am analyzing the fight, preparing mental anecdotes and waiting for my cue.
When I’m not busting his chops off camera, Chilson is flashing his cheeky grin on set. There is chemistry and flow. “The Dragon” is fiery and animated. “Ace” is cool and um, careful. But we are both authentic. We split sentiments and provide the contrast to Schiavello’s penchant for grandiosity.
Our commentary booth has the feel of a cozy lodge. Just three guys hunkering down in the den, messing around and talking about the fight. In this new age of pandemic sports and social distancing, isn’t that something to smile about?