Karyn Bryant ’90 says there’s more to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bouts than fighters in an octagonal cage slugging it out with fists and feet. To Bryant, Lead UFC Host for Fox Sports, they’re also a ballet of mental gymnastics. “An MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fight is combat,” she says, “but it can also be a jujitsu chess match.”
Bryant not only hosts UFC Tonight and several UFC-themed Fox Sports television shows; she also anchors MMA Heat, a weekly podcast, and UFC Now on Fight Pass, the UFC network. Bryant has covered boxing since 2006, when she left a job hosting a music-video game show to become a sports reporter on Showtime Championship Boxing.
“Showtime executives were looking for a new reporter, and my agent asked, ‘Does it have to be a guy?’” Bryant remembers. “He pointed out the window to a billboard that featured me and said, ‘How about her?’ We had a lunch meeting and talked all kinds of sports, not just boxing, and I ended up working for the company for three-and-a-half years. I like to be challenged, and switching from entertainment to sports got me out of my comfort zone.”
Not surprisingly, her biggest challenge was earning the respect of fight fans. “I was the first woman doing interviews inside the ring,” Bryant says, “and I’d see comments on websites where people assumed I slept with everyone I interviewed, or they said I should run back to the kitchen and make sandwiches. A lot of racist and sexist things, but I kept chugging through. I don’t know how many years it took, but today fans support me. A woman recently stopped me and said I was a role model for her daughter. When someone says you’re a role model, that’s really inspiring.”
Recently Bryant covered the Westminster Dog Show. “It’s incredibly fun, and I love dogs,” she says. “The hardest part of the job is interviewing dog handlers who are fanatic about their dogs but aren’t used to being on camera. But what can you do? You can’t interview the dogs.”
Bryant enrolled at Brown thinking she’d earn a law degree, but changed her mind after hosting a radio show on WBRU. In her senior year, concentrating in political science and sociology, she heard MTV was looking for a VJ and sent in an audition tape of herself lip-syncing a song. She was hired and later moved to TNT, TBS, and VH1 before switching to sports reporting. She joined Fox Sports in 2012.
“I loved my time at Brown,” she says. “It gave me confidence in my brain power. I also knew I had a great education, so I had less fear of failure.”