In 2016, only a few employees remained from the pre-ZUFFA UFC era, including Joe Silva, Joe Rogan, Mike Goldberg, and Josh Hedges. Then Silva retired and Rogan announced he is winding his career down. Goldberg began working at UFC 15.5 on December 21, 1997, in Yokohama, Japan. Two years later the Fertitta brothers bought the UFC for $2,000,000. 19 year later it was sold for $4,000,000,000.
After UFC 207 on December 30, 2016 Goldberg was released without a public goodbye, or apparently a private one. He is one among many dozens of former employees that were released by the new owners WME-IMG. Early in December the UFC had informed Goldberg his contract would not be renewed, and he did the remaining shows with his characteristic professionalism. The color commentator described his feelings during a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour.
“It was a shock,” said Goldberg, as transcribed by Shaun Al-Shatti for MMA Fighting. “I was speechless. I didn’t know what type of emotion to have, because I was just in a state of shock and disbelief. People love that warm, fuzzy blanket. That’s what you were describing a second ago, and Joe and I have been that warm, fuzzy blanket for a long time when it came to the UFC. Everybody gets new blankets and they get new furniture, but at the end of the day, when you cuddle up on a Sunday and you watch football, that blanket in the corner that’s got holes in it, and it’s kinda smelly but that’s your blanket, that’s the one you utilize.
“Joe and I have been so blessed and fortunate to be — and I love the description, ‘the soundtrack’ — so blessed and fortunate to be the soundtrack of the UFC for so long, that it really was, I was in shock and disbelief for that reason.”
“I’m no different than the guy in merchandise, or the 15 vice presidents who got let go, or the entire team in Canada that was shut down. I’m not the only guy who was let go by the new ownership. Well over 100 people, and good friends of both yours and mine. I’m the one being talked about because I had the high-profile job, but I’m not going to sit here and weep because new ownership came in and I was one of the guys who got cut. I was one of a lot of people, and a lot of good people, from the Zuffa era who got cut. And so I felt for my co-workers, for my friends, as much as I felt for myself.
“I watched everything around me be shattered. It took 15 years to build this wonderful family, and it felt like it was taking 15 minutes to destroy it. And it just was a really tough time, and it may still be tough. There may be more to come throughout the UFC family. This is not uncommon in an ownership change with anything. It might just be corporate America, it might be on Wall Street. In this instance, it’s a sports property.
“So what reason were they going to give me? And would that make me feel any better or any worse? No, not at all. So honestly, I just felt respect for the other members of the family that also were released, and I’m no better than any of those guys. So, it is what it is. Extremely disappointing, don’t get me wrong. But mostly disappointing because our family has really been torn, and that’s what I’ll miss the most.”
Goldberg said he could roll with never being given a reason for his release, but he questions why UFC president Dana White never spoke with him.
“No conversations, no contact. Nothing, really,” said Goldberg. “Nothing. Which was surprising. Disappointing, certainly. But nothing was said, and I’ve got to live with that. At the end of the day, what matters to me is my family, my children. But no, to answer your question directly, there was no conversation. Nothing at all.”
Goldberg was asked if he was surprised.
“How do you answer that really?” he responded. “What’s more important to me is my character. I’m just going to stay strong, and I’m going to think about myself and the professional that I am and my character. I don’t think there’s any way to answer that without it being somewhat controversial or somewhat angry, so I’ll leave that one alone. But certainly, I’ll tell you this: that I’m a team guy and I love the UFC brand, and I represented it in the way that I was asked to for two decades, and of course, about 15 years with Zuffa. So yeah, when you carry the flag the way you’re asked to, yeah, it was somewhat of a bummer, to say the least.”
“We all sat there as the building was cleared, and we actually all got in the Octagon and did pictures. Joe and I had a couple of big hugs. There were tears. There was confusion. Disbelief, for sure. Frosty, our longtime audio guy, it was his last show. It was Kru Mark DellaGrotte’s last show. Again, going back to the family, and it was emotional. Being with my stage manager for all of those years, we did pictures. We haven’t done pictures in the Octagon in about 100 years, but did that night. And we all went back to the dressing room, and Bruce Connal, our longtime producer, and Anthony Giordano, we all just sat there for about an hour and we just shook our heads. Like, how is this happening? How is this ending? Back to the shock and disbelief.
“But we cherished that time together, and like I said, there were hugs, there were tears. But there’s one thing for sure, and there’s one thing that will never be taken away, and that’s our friendship, and that’s the great run and the memories that we’ve had together.”
While the UFC offered Goldberg no words of tribute, the fans sure did.
“I don’t even know if I can put it into words,” said Goldberg. “Because all I wanted to do during my career, and I said this on my Twitter, was entertain the fans, to bring energy and enthusiasm to every single show, and to represent the fighters. I didn’t think, for one minute, that I would get this kind of love and support from all over the world. I knew people enjoyed Joe and I on the UFC. I knew people always said that it’s different when it’s not Goldy and Rogan. But I never really knew, until now, how much they truly appreciated the job which I had done for two decades. And the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming.
“It has been the most humbling experience of my life, and it makes me know, deep in my heart, that regardless of anything else, that I did it right. And I will continue to do it right, wherever that next place might be.”