That MMA Show

Laura Sanko makes history as pro MMA’s first female play-by-play announcer

Eric Holden

For the first time in the 25-plus year history of professional MMA, a female will be handling play-by-play duties — and it will be Laura Sanko.

The 36-year-old, a former fighter and current correspondent for UFC on ESPN, makes her debut appearance as play-by-play announcer on May 3 in Kansas City, Kan. She’ll be working alongside former Bellator and UFC talent Jimmy Smith, who is slated to provide color commentary for the event.

None of the major pro combat sports promotions — UFC, Bellator, One FC and Rizin — have ever had a woman provide play-by-play. Since the UFC’s first event in 1993, the broadcasting side of MMA has been decidedly male-dominated. Sanko and Invicta FC will make history on May 3, as the promotion brings her in for a unique challenge.

“Laura knows the sport front and back, and has really set herself apart as one of the best sideline reporters in all of MMA. To diversify her game and sit in that [No. 1] chair on fight night, is a very big deal for her and, I think, the future as well,” TJ DeSantis said on his “Beatdown” podcast. “Laura is a role model for a lot of young up-and-coming women who might want to move into the broadcasting side of MMA, and she’s leading the way.”

The show, Invicta FC’s inaugural “Phoenix Rising” one-night single-elimination tournament, will be held at Memorial Hall. “Phoenix Rising” airs live on UFC Fight Pass. The new series — and commentary team shake-up — has Invicta FC head honcho Shannon Knapp excited.

“To be the first to do something, that’s really the game-changer,” Knapp said of Sanko’s new gig. “That’s where you mark your spot. I do have confidence what she can bring to it. And I think the team itself will be really good.”

Eric Holden has covered MMA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden82

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