It’s been five of the quickest years in MMA history for the LFA crew; 121 events and the same voices and the same machine making it run the whole time.
LFA ring announcer Mike Kendall has been a part of the machine long before RFA and Legacy merged to create one of the strongest promotions on the planet. After five years of doing shows in barns, armories and everywhere in between, Kendall heard rumblings of MMA’s newest big thing being birthed in Kearney, Nebraska, and set his sole focus on that one promotion.
“I had established myself as kind of the go-to guy for Nebraska MMA,” Kendall said. “I really wanted to do this show and I couldn’t believe they hadn’t asked me, so I talked to my manager, and I asked if he could get to work on this. I really wanted this job.”
RFA declined and went with a local radio DJ, a mistake Kendall has benefitted from countless times in his 15-year career and called him back to join the team for RFA 2. While he still has regrets about not doing enough to call the legendary premiere event, Kendall had punched his ticket to a ride that’s lasted ten years and counting.
Gilbert Yvel, Houston Alexander and Maurice Smith were the big-ticket fighters Kendall was about to get familiar with but it wasn’t the big ticket fighters Kendall would come to enjoy working with.
Some of the “other fighters” on the card were Tim Elliott, TUF Finalist Justin Frazier and Derrick Lewis. The following card it was Julian Marquez and James Krause.
Card after card, RFA was fielding future household names and picking up steam as a result.
Before long, this juggernaut merged with the final remaining “regional” promotion and LFA was born. Despite not knowing exactly what his role would be in the new promotion, Kendall couldn’t help but feel what everybody involved was feeling.
“To hear that the two biggest development leagues were going to become one, it was definitely exciting,” Kendall said. “I spent that time in RFA feeling like we were pretty good competitors with Legacy Fighting Championship and just to hear that it was going to come together it was very exciting.”
Five years ago today, Kendall was a part of LFA 1. Rashad Coulter, Austin Lingo, Steven Peterson, Montana De La Rosa and many more kicked things off for the new promotion, and it was clear in a short amount of time, LFA’s future star power was definitely on the “best case scenario” side of expectations.
It was everything Kendall loved about RFA.
“There’s some fighters I’ve gotten close to and hung out with outside of the fight week and stuff,” Kendall said. “These are the guys that are hungry. These are the dudes that are knocking on that door and you get to see a lot more of their real self. You get to hear what their dream is and they’re not there yet. They’re hungry. Being a part of that part of their career is very fulfilling to me.”
Finding ring announcers is much easier than finding future MMA talent. Kendall himself has no public speaking degree. No broadcasting PhD. In fact, in 2022, with hundreds of fight promotions nationwide, we’re seeing more colorful suits and confident voices than ever. What is it that’s kept Kendall on the team for so long?
“It’s people that are a little too over the top that drive me to be the other way,” Kendall explains. “I really think that if you look at a ring announcer, he should be a garnish on the plate. Not try to be the steak and potatoes. At the end of the day, it’s all about the fighters. They’re the ones that sell this sport, they’re the entertainment. It’s just my job to professionally portray that.”
The 26-year Nebraska concrete finisher has carried himself the same way since the first time he grabbed a microphone, and was even a missed phone call away from being the voice of DWCS.
His focus being solely on the fighters, as opposed to himself, mirrors the way the entire LFA crew has successfully run the show all these years.
With LFA celebrating it’s fifth anniversary back where it all started, Kendall has seen over 200 household names come through the LFA cage. He may have missed Jens Pulver at RFA 1, but seeing Brandon Moreno win LFA gold and then become one of the most beloved UFC champions has more than made up for it.
He sees even bigger accomplishments in the next five years, and the never ending wonder of “who’s next” has Kendall as excited as he was the day he heard about RFA 1.
“In five more years you’re looking at maybe 225 more shows,” Kendall said. “It’s tough to imagine. How it’s going to evolve, you never know. If I look back at RFA 2 where I started, it’s interesting how it’s evolved, and it’s tough to figure out where we’re going to be, but we’re going to be on top.”
Here’s to five more years!
Catch LFA’s fifth anniversary TONIGHT! LFA 121 comes at you LIVE at 6 pm PT, ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!