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John Gooden and Laura Sanko anchor the broadcast during the Road to UFC event at Etihad Arena on October 23, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Laura Sanko's Journey To History | Breaking Barriers

UFC Commentator Laura Sanko Reflects On The Path That Led Her To Becoming The First Women To Appear As A Color Commentator In The UFC's Modern Era 

The first time Laura Sanko was on TV, she called UFC commentator Jon Anik. At the time, the two weren’t friends and he had no idea who she was, but she was doing post-fight interviews and figured who better to get advice from than someone who had a wealth of experience and knowledge doing just that.

To this day, Sanko still has the voice message saved on her phone from Anik. And now, she is the one paving the way for people to reach out to her for advice and follow in her footsteps. On February 4, Sanko became the first woman to make her color commentary debut in the UFC’s modern era. It is a historic accomplishment that she never could’ve dreamed coming true.

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“Even ten years ago, I would not have imagined being in the position that I am in today,” Sanko said. “Ten years ago, which would have been 2013, I was making my pro (MMA) debut and I imagined that was going to be my future; never would I have imagined that I could have gotten to this point. At the same time, when I look back, I can see the love of MMA, in particular, just carries through, because I started covering the sport in 2010. I think that's something that not a lot of people know about me. I started covering live fights back when I was still an amateur (fighter). The desire was there. I just never knew I would end up on camera.”

Growing up, Sanko never had one particular career aspiration in mind. However, she has always been a very driven person, and growing up with a brother four years older than her, she always had a competitive drive, wanting to prove that she can hang with the older boys. It’s a trait that has stuck with her throughout her life.

John Gooden, Laura Sanko, and Michael Bisping anchor the broadcast during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

John Gooden, Laura Sanko, and Michael Bisping anchor the broadcast during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)


In 2013, Sanko made her professional MMA debut in Invicta FC, defeating Cassie Robb via submission. Sanko fought at 105 pounds, the atomweight division, which ultimately cut her career short due to many promotions not having that specific division, including the UFC. But being able to continue her journey in MMA, just in a different aspect, is something that she cherishes.

“What kept me going and what kept me just loving my job was the love of the game,” Sanko said. “To be able to be around the fighters and be there for some of the biggest moments in their lives, especially on Dana White’s Contender Series, you really see that brought into focus because that night, that contract, that one fight is everything to them. I'm a very empathetic person, so I'm riding that wave of emotion right with them.”

Getting to where she is now wasn’t an easy journey for Sanko, who first started calling fights in the Titan FC promotion in Kansas City, Missouri.

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“I didn't get paid to do my job,” Sanko said. “I got tickets in exchange for covering blow-by-blow recaps of the fights, I got to sit cageside, and just be in the mix. It was a very humble start to begin with, for sure.”

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Laura Sanko Reflects On Her Journey To History | Breaking Barriers
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Under the UFC broadcast umbrella, Sanko has been a reporter and color commentator for shows such as Dana White’s Contender Series and Road To UFC. Prior to working on UFC broadcasts, Sanko was an analyst for Invicta FC and Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA). In addition to fight night duties, Sanko also takes part in the weigh-in show ahead of UFC events, giving her yet another opportunity to show her knowledge within the sport.

When she got the call that she would be doing color commentary on a UFC broadcast, the preparation wasn’t much different for her, as it was something that she felt she had a good grasp on.

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“Every step that I've taken within the broadcast realm in the UFC has gotten me to this point,” Sanko said. “Starting out as a reporter backstage when we were back on FOX, everything helped me get better at the television side of things, which is really where I was lacking. I knew the sport inside and out, I loved the sport inside and out, but the little television nuances, the professionalism that I had to learn on the fly, I sort of had to make up as I went. Even when I was in the reporting role and not really analyzing anything, everything contributed to where I am now.”

UFC president Dana White announces the contract winners with Laura Sanko during Dana White's Contender Series season six, week ten at UFC APEX on September 27, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

UFC president Dana White announces the contract winners with Laura Sanko during Dana White's Contender Series season six, week ten at UFC APEX on September 27, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)


Talking to Sanko just a month after she made this historic accomplishment, she reflected on how she hopes her journey can impact other than people.

She emphasized how the moment isn’t about her, it is about other women who have a goal to achieve what she has, whether you are a fighter or not. She was blown away by the number of female athletes on the UFC roster that reached out to her expressing their gratitude for paving a path outside of fighting.

“I don't think I fully understood how much representation mattered until I started down this journey,” Sanko said. “I want it to be easier for the amazing, incredible women I know who are right behind me ready to do this job. I don't know that I’ll be the best to ever do it, but I'm excited to be the first (in the modern era), but there are so many other women with the knowledge and the passion to be able to fill that role, as well.”