Stephen A. Smith and Joe Rogan are at odds over the ESPN personality’s analysis of the main event at UFC 246 last weekend.
Smith, who is an MMA outsider and doesn’t often comment on the sport, provided commentary alongside Rogan and Michael Eaves on ESPN after Conor McGregor beat Cowboy Cerrone in the main event.
Smith was critical of Cerrone for lasting just 40 seconds and opined that the spotlight was too much for the veteran fighter. Smith also said that the quick win over Cerrone did not prove anything about whether or not McGregor was “back” after a long layoff.
Rogan, who has been an interviewer for the UFC since 1997 and is an accomplished mixed martial artist himself, took issue with Smith’s commentary. Rogan feels Smith was too harsh on Cerrone.
Here is what Rogan said on the “JRE MMA Show” podcast, as transcribed by MMA Junkie.
“For Conor to smash ‘Cowboy’ like that in front of his wife, his kid, his grandma and the whole world. You’ve got to have some respect for that man, and this sport demands a different perspective. It’s not the same thing as a ball going into a hoop. It’s not the same thing as crossing a line with a football. It’s different. It’s very intense and very personal, and it’s also very (expletive) dangerous and to play it off like it’s just a game, I don’t agree with it,” Rogan said.
Rogan also said the commentator’s shtick doesn’t belong in MMA
“That’s a bad look for everybody,” Rogan said. “It’s a bad look for ESPN, it’s a bad look for [Smith], it’s a bad look for the sport. There’s other people that can do this. … We have plenty of people out there who understand the sport. There’s plenty of them. But the thing about him is he’s really popular. (He just got a contract extension) because his personality is so fun. He’s a fun guy to watch and people love (expletive)-talking and they love people arguing about (expletive) and one person is better at arguing. Stephen A. Smith is really good at that stuff. But it’s not the place for MMA. It’s just not the place. It’s not the same thing.”
On Saturday, Smith responded with this video where he focused on and defended his take that McGregor did not prove anything.
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 26, 2020
McGregor got involved in the discussion and told Smith to apologize for not being more respectful of the way Cerrone lost.
The call you discuss here is A+. I didn’t show enough. I’m not paid by the hour though. Joe’s comments however, come from you saying the opposition fighter quit. Broken nose/orbital bone say different. Fighting is vicious. Those who make the walk deserve full respect!
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) January 26, 2020
Smith doesn’t know the intricacies of MMA, so hearing him talk is infuriating to the hardcore fans and knowledgeable commentators. But ESPN brings Smith on for his hot takes delivered in his entertaining style, and that’s exactly what he did. And now he’s created a beef out of it, which is why he’s paid the big bucks.
ESPN wants to help grow the sport, and having someone like Smith on to do his thing helps appeal to more people. But at the same time, if you’re going to do that, you have to work hard not to alienate your core fans who are the the heart of the business.
Here is the original video of the postfight analysis from Rogan and Smith.