ESPN’s sports commentator, Stephen A Smith has responded to criticism from UFC commentator Joe Rogan following last weekend’s Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone bout.
During the UFC 246 main event on Saturday 18th December 2020, McGregor starched his opponent with some unorthodox shoulder strikes. He then followed up with a killer leg kick and strikes to seal the TKO victory over Cerrone in just 40 seconds of the first round. The rapid defeat didn’t go unnoticed by Smith who criticised ‘Cowboy’s’ performance:
“I’m quite disgusted,” declared Smith.
“Let me be very, very clear: I’m honored to be up here with you guys. I’m a spectator watching the sport. I expected to see more than 40 seconds. I predicted McGregor was going to win this fight inside of two rounds. I thought he would take him out.
“Here’s the deal: 15 seconds in, Cowboy Cerrone was done. He got hit with those shoulders in the clinch, and he was done. It looked like he gave up. It was just an atrocious performance on his part.”
Smith followed up on social media with a clip of him hitting pads. The video showing the commentator’s boxing technique did little more than bolster doubts from his MMA sceptics.
UFC sports personality Joe Rogan sat down with guest Josh Thomson and insulted his pad work, concluding that ‘this guy should not be allowed to talk about fighting’. Rogan said (transcipt via BJPenn.com):
“Someone needs to explain to me what’s happening here. It looks like he’s punching a baby,” Rogan said to Thomson as the pair watched the clip.
“This guy should not be allowed to talk about fighting.”
“You called a guy a quitter [who], first of all, had a broken orbital bone,” Rogan continued to bash the sports presenter.
“You’re saying he was a quitter? He got his face smashed. He got cracked by one of the biggest punches in the sport. He has the most wins in the [UFC], he has the most wins by finish, he has the most bonuses. I mean, come on. He has the most fights. You’re calling that guy a quitter? He got cracked! That’s what happens.”
On Twitter, Smith responded to Rogan’s comments with the following video:
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 26, 2020
“Mad respect to Joe Rogan. Nothing but respect for the man and the tremendous work that he has done and will continue to do throughout the years and for years to come. But you’re wrong on this one my man,” announced Stephen Smith.
“Me being at the Conor McGregor fight against Cowboy Cerrone saying what I said, that he didn’t show us much at 40 seconds, that warrants ‘it’s not good for the sport? It’s not good for me? It’s not good for ESPN?’
“First of all, as it pertains to ESPN, check the numbers, the subscribers to ESPN+, the level of attention that it got, the traffic that it generated in digital and beyond. Check the numbers.”
Smith recognises the skill of analysts such as Joe Rogan and Chael Sonnen that have contributed towards the success of ESPN. He also insists on his own credibility and experience:
“Excuse me, I have been a reporter for 25 years,” said Smith.
“I have covered sports on a variety of competitive levels regardless of what the sport is. That includes boxing and the UFC, and I don’t give a damn if I did it. It don’t take much to look at three shoulder shots to the nose [to know] that Conor McGregor gave Cowboy Cerrone, watching him fold inside of 20 seconds knowing that he only got one strike off that ‘Oh, by the way, that was blocked by Conor’.
McGregor’s UFC 246 return was his first fight since his 2018 loss to lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. With another victory to his name, a possible title rematch or fight against Jorge Masvidal could be on the horizon. To deserve those potential matchups, Smith believes McGregor should have shown more of what he’s capable of. He uses that to justify his comments about both fighters and is ready to talk to Joe Rogan in person:
“Any time you want to talk to me about this fight, or you want to talk to me about my credentials to discuss something in a world of sports, name the time and place Joe Rogan and I’ll show up. It’s not a problem.
“You don’t know me so I’m not going to knock you for speaking out the way you spoke out without calling me. I don’t care about all that. I respect where you’re coming from, you’re just wrong on this particular one. And I’m telling you, you’re wrong.
“Conor McGregor did not get the opportunity to show us he did enough for us to believe that Nurmagomedov or Masvidal, that’s something that could potentially happen. I didn’t see it, because Cowboy Cerrone’s first PPV match folded. I respect him but he folded like a cheap tent, period! Bad night for him, that’s all.
“I stand by that. I still stand by that. I’ll holla at y’all later. Joe Rogan, if you need me, you know where to find me.”