Joe Rogan’s commentary during the UFC 223 main event, which saw Khabib Nurmagomedov defeat a last-minute opponent in Al Iaquinta, drew the ire of many MMA fans. The criticism was that Rogan’s commentary leaned to far in the direction of Iaquinta, and simultaneously disparaged the skill of Nurmagomedov.
Late on Sunday night, Joe Rogan responded to this backlash, offering an explanation—and an apology—in a lengthy Instagram post.
“It is insanely rare to have a fighter as dominant as [Khabib Nurmagomedov]”, Rogan said in his post. “In one of the most talent stacked divisions to go 25 and 0 is incredible, but to do it without even having a rough moment in a fight is completely unheard of.
“The closest thing to adversity he’s had to face in the Octagon before Saturday was one solid punch that was landed by Michael Johnson in a fight that was otherwise a horrifically one-sided mauling. When I’m commentating on someone that dominant I am constantly looking for cracks in their armor, and on Saturday night we saw the first of those cracks exposed by an incredibly game Al Iaquinta.
“Most people, myself included, expected the highly favored Khabib to rag doll his last minute opponent the way he’s done to everyone else he faced in the Octagon, and that was the case in the early going, but as the fight got into the later rounds Al was able to keep the fight standing and we saw some possible flaws in Khabib’s defense. Make no mistake about it, Khabib won that fight by a landslide, but it went to a decision, and that in and of itself was an upset.
“When I’m looking at a fighter as spectacularly talented as Khabib fighting a guy like Al who is an almost impossible underdog I’m not just looking at this fight, but I’m looking at openings that can possibly be exploited by the best fighters in the division. I saw some of those openings Saturday night, and I certainly found them interesting. In no way am I biased against Khabib, in fact I’m a massive fan of his and he’s one of my all time favorite fighters. If any of you were annoyed by my concentrating on that aspect of an incredibly dominant performance by one of the most impressive guys in the history of the division, please accept my sincere apology.
“When I commentate on fights my goal is to highlight the action and make it more exciting for the fans at home. Obviously all this is done live in real time, and if I had to go back and do it again I would often be able to do a better job. Even after all the years I’ve been commentating I still learn something new about the position with each and every event, and when that stops happening that will most likely be when I quit.”
What did you think of Joe Rogan’s commentary on Saturday night, and of his statement on the backlash?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 4/9/2018.