Stephen A. Smith’s heart rate is more jacked up than his pad work this weekend. The ESPN personality has posted an aggressively cringey video rant in response to lead UFC commentator Joe Rogan, who gave Smith a disapproving dressing down on his most recent episode of JRE: MMA Show podcast.
In case you missed it, Smith–ESPN’s chosen fight analyst for last week’s high selling UFC Conor vs. Cowboy fight card–roasted the just-beaten Cowboy Cerrone following the match, saying he was “disgusted” by Cowboy’s performance and the overall brevity of the event. Smith continued by saying Cowboy failed to “show up” for his fight.
Present when Smith gave his disdainful analysis, Rogan decided to address the tone of it, which he felt was disrespectful, a few days later with fellow fight-analyst-and-fighter Josh Thomson of Bellator.
“That’s a bad look for everybody,” Rogan said of Smith’s response. “It’s a bad look for ESPN, it’s a bad look for him, it’s a bad look for the sport. There’s other people that can do this [job].” He and Thomson touched on the ire felt by many martial artists when non-fighters criticize their performances, highlighting Smith’s lack of combat training without going so far as to say “he doesn’t even fight” out loud.
“If either you or I was talking about cricket, and we were on TV doing commentary on cricket, we would look out of place. It would be f****ed up and real cricket fans would be upset at us. That’s nothing. You are naked in the most literal sense of the word [in MMA]. Physically, you are naked. Emotionally…when fighters lose, it’s f***ing devastating,” Rogan said. “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.”
Smith, who recently received a contract extension from ESPN for his on air commentary in part because of his “big personality,” got genuinely fired up when the podcast episode went live, going on a 3.5 minute tirade which starts tensely and escalates into mad dogging his cell phone camera:
“Me saying Cowboy Cerrone didn’t show us much in 40 seconds…that warrants a ‘it’s not good for the sport, it’s not good for me, it’s not good for ESPN?’ I certainly don’t claim to be the aficionado you are [of MMA], but excuse me, I have been a reporter for 25 years. 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 didn’t–it don’t take much to look at three shoulder shots nose that Conor gave Cowboy Cerrone, watching [Cowboy] fold inside of 20 seconds, knowing that he only got one stike off and oh BY THE WAY that was blocked by Conor! It doesn’t take much to look at the fight and say, ‘Excuse me, I didn’t see enough to convince me that Conor in a rematch could [beat Khabib Nurmagomedov].”
The post ends with Smith calling Rogan out to discuss his “credentials” as a commentator, which is what commentators do when they cannot also fight.
Remember mixed martial arts before social media?
That was the best.