If you’ve been watching Dana White’s Contender Series this fall, you have no doubt noticed a different sound to the telecasts:
Laura Sanko, who has served and will continue to serve as the show’s backstage interviewer (and previously served as the show’s Octagon announcer) was tapped as an analyst for the program, effective with its fifth season premiere on Aug. 31.
Sanko is a recognized face to longtime UFC viewers, as she appears as a backstage interviewer on some Fight Night cards, alternating with Megan Olivi and Heidi Androl. This isn’t the first time that she lobbied for an analyst’s role in the UFC.
Sanko Has Advocated For An Analyst’s Position Before
“I would do it in a heartbeat,” Sanko began. “I would do it in a heartbeat because that’s my dream. If I’m being honest, and that’s my goal, and it’s a tough case to make because I don’t have the resume that the UFC fighters do, and that’s who they really like to use in those roles.”
In the same interview, she noted that women’s MMA is really just starting out, and this includes women broadcasting the sport.
“But there aren’t hundreds of women that have fought and who are also (broadcasting in MMA),” she continued, “and this is the thing- I see these arguments online: ‘Oh, she beat this person, she beat that person,’ and I’ll flat out say X, Y or Z women has more fights than I do, she’s really fun and interesting, and I’m a huge fan, but talking on television and doing live analysis during fights is a different animal.”
The Opportunity Finally Knocks
Earlier this year, Sanko was tapped to work as an analyst for LFA 97 on UFC Fight Pass in the wake of the promotion suspending and subsequently terminating Pat Miletich as an analyst on fight nights due to online photos surfacing of him attending the Jan. 6 riots at the US Capitol in Washington DC.
Sanko worked on subsequent LFA events, but she wasn’t quite done from there. This past April, she was again interviewed by MMA Junkie where she explained her ultimate goal.
“My dream would be eventually be part of that booth,” she said, “One of the things that’s kind of allowed me to succeed in this job despite no broadcast training whatsoever, is I do really understand the fight game.”
On the Sept. 1 edition of The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Sanko revealed that she had been offered the position of analyst for Contender Series broadcasts via text from UFC President Dana White while she was flying out to Las Vegas for the Aug. 31 season premiere- on just one day’s notice.
Sanko: Sports Television’s Latest Trailblazer
Upon accepting the analyst’s position on Contender Series, Laura Sanko became the newest trailblazer in sports television.
Before Laura Sanko, there was FOX Sports‘ lead MLS sideline reporter, Katie Witham, (my hero and mentor in the business), who joined Lisa Byington and Danielle Slaton to work the first all-female telecast of a men’s professional sport. In recent times, Byington worked the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship for CBS Sports/Turner, and last month, she was hired as the television play-by-play commentator for the Milwaukee Bucks, becoming the first permanent play-by-play announcer of a men’s professional sports team.
Back in 1993, former longtime Houston sportscaster Lisa Malosky entered the national spotlight when she was hired to replace Larry Csonka as the co-host/interviewer on the original version of the popular syndicated competition series American Gladiators, spending two seasons in that capacity while working at NBC affiliate KPRC-2, which aired the show every weekend.
Malosky then parlayed her work on local television in Houston into a position with NBC Sports, which included a stint as a sideline reporter on its WNBA coverage.
It’s Time for An All-Female UFC Fight Night Broadcast
It has always been my feeling that women in sports television should be the norm, rather than the exception– and the UFC has something going here with Laura Sanko’s increased involvement in DWCS.
It’s high time that the UFC consider an all-female UFC Fight Night broadcast.
- Blow-by-Blow: Heidi Androl
- Analyst: Laura Sanko
- Backstage Reporter: Megan Olivi
Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images