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How Legendary Sports Phrase ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rumble’ Made $400 Million

The true story of how boxing announcer Michael Buffer trademarked his phrase

Michael Buffer in the ring mobile 0
Michael Buffer / Peter Bischoff/Getty Images

patrick baslar
September 4, 2018

The greatest thing famed boxing announcer Michael Buffer ever did was come up with the catchphrase "Let's get ready to rumble!"

 

The smartest thing he ever did was copyright it.

Since 1992, the year Buffer secured the trademark for his signature catchphrase, he's raked in over $400 million from its use. He sold the rights to use the line in everything from video games, TV shows, movies, merch and more, according to ABC News. At this point, he makes far more from the trademark than he does from actually announcing events.

 

Buffer first considered trademarking the phrase when he started hearing it coming from outside the ring… And not from him.

 

“I realized that it was popping up everywhere, like for editorial use and headlines, and, you know, for a big fight,” he told ABC News. “It would say, 'It's time to rumble, ready to rumble.' And so, occasionally, a car dealer, a local car dealer would say, 'Let's get ready to rumble' for knockout deals. And they were, like, using my line. And I checked with attorneys and found out that this could be considered what they call intellectual property.”

 

Buffer has not only made millions from licensing its use, he’s also very vigilant about cracking down on people who use it without his permission. After all, you have to protect your moneymaker.

 

And $400 million in licensing revenue isn’t too shabby for a guy who originally got into boxing announcing for the chance to see fights for free.

 

When he was going to boxing matches with his kids in the 1980s, one of his sons told him that he could do the job of the ring announcer. That’s all it took to plant the seed in Buffer’s head and soon he decided to give it a shot—if only to skirt the entry fee.

 

“I'm a big fan. I can't afford a ticket, so maybe I could just get my way in to the ring that way," he said. “And I came up with a sort of enhanced resume that said I had experience and got my foot in the door and was quite terrible the first time. But I got another shot and it just took off—the power of television.”

 

Since then, Buffer’s voice has become one of the most famous in the world—and thanks to that trademark, he’s had no shortage of business opportunities.