It’ll be just over two months since UFC fans have been treated/subjected to Joe Rogan back in the broadcast booth for a UFC event. The podcasting superstar and longtime voice of the Octagon has relegated himself exclusively to PPV duty over the last half decade, at times even suggesting he might walk away from calling fight cards altogether.
That threat has never come to fruition, thus far—although Rogan has made it clear that if UFC president Dana White ever exits the promotion, he’s going with him.
“If Dana leaves, I’m gone,” Rogan said in a 2022 episode of his podcast. “It’s in my contract.”
No more Fight Nights or international travel for Joe Rogan
In the meantime, while he’s sticking around, Joe Rogan has limited himself to just a few fight cards a year. The initial decision to walk away from bigger network TV ‘UFC on FOX’ style broadcasts was one he made back in 2016. A lot of the reasoning there had to do with what was, at the time, a constant travel schedule from the UFC. But there was also friction with FOX execs asking Rogan to become a more typical sports play-by-play announcer.
“I didn’t like when I first started doing it for them,” Rogan explained on his podcast back in 2018 (transcript via MMA Weekly). they got in my ear. The very first events for FOX, they were like telling me what to do,” Rogan explained. “They were telling me to take it down a notch. Don’t be so amped up about that guy.
“I was like, ‘What? What are you doing here?’ I go, ‘Listen, I do commentary. This is what I do. I’ve been doing it forever. This is how I do it. If you think you can change me, then we’re not going to work together.’ We had a real problem for the first event. It was a FOX production.
“I didn’t like it. They want a sports guy,” he continued. “Look, MMA is what it is; it’s fighting. It is a very specific kind of sport. I’ve been doing it the way I’ve been doing it forever. If you don’t like the way I do it, that’s fine. Don’t hire me. But don’t try to get me to become some sports guy. I’m not interested in that at all.”
When the UFC moved from FOX to ESPN, Rogan didn’t even bother trying to take a stab at working with the sports broadcasting network.
“I’m not interested,” Rogan revealed in 2019. “I would take this, for zero money, over [working the UFC card] in Phoenix right now. Although I would want to see those fights live and I would love to call those fights live. I’m good with 10 a year. That’s what I like. I like 10 a year.”
But ten fight cards a year doesn’t even cover all the UFC’s current PPV schedule, which typically runs to just over one-a-month, or thirteen total, annually. To scale his involvement back even further, in 2016 Rogan revealed that he would no longer be doing any international travel for the UFC. That puts the longtime centerpiece of the promotion’s broadcast team squarely on domestic PPVs only.
Rogan on PPV in 2023
Interestingly, that schedule of only doing domestic PPVs may create a problem in even getting to that 10 a year number. Assuming the UFC is going to run a yet-to-be-named PPV in November at MSG, the promotion will actually be on track for 14 cards this year. However, because they’re spending so much of their time bumping around the Apex for smaller shows, the promotion has also been taking their biggest and best cards to to more overseas markets.
If Fight Nights are largely staying home in Vegas, then fans in Brazil, England, and Australia need serious events to get excited about. This year, six of the UFC’s assumed fourteen cards will be overseas. So while Rogan will be expected to work UFC 290-292, he’ll be out for UFC 293 & 294.
Rogan’s thoughts on Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez
Unsurprisingly, considering Rogan’s penchant for hyperbole and excitement, the longtime UFC commentator sounds like he’s a big fan of both men in the UFC 290 main event. Back in February at UFC 284, while watching Volkanovski vs. Makhachev, Rogan was absolutely certain that the Aussie had done enough to secure his second title.
“He beat him. He fucking beat him. He beat Islam in Australia,” Rogan enthused before the decision was read.
Obviously the judges didn’t share Rogan’s opinon, but even on a rewatch he still feels Volkanovski did enough to secure the strap. “Look, I thought he beat him,” Rogan told Masvidal of the UFC 284 main event. “You know, I’ve watched it over and over again, and it really comes down to that second round. I gave him that advantage in that second round. I watched it many times. Who’s winning at the end? Who’s on top at the end?”
As for Rodriguez, on another recent episode of the JRE, Rogan could only pile on the superlatives for the interim champion and upcoming title challenger.
“Have you seen Yair Rodriguez fight? Yair Rodriguez is one of the wildest motherf—kers that’s ever fought in MMA,” Rogan explained. “Yair has some of the craziest kicks. He’s got this taekwondo background, but he does all this wild s—t. He hit B.J. Penn with a 360 roundhouse kick. He f—ked B.J. Penn up
“Look at this motherf—ker. He kicked him with the right, and then in the air hits him with the left. He’s a beast. He’s so dynamic, his striking and on the ground. He finished Josh Emmett with a triangle in his last fight. On the ground he’s nasty. He is f—king wicked. He’s wicked, and he’s really hard to figure out because everything he does is different—f—king genius.”
For this weekend, MMA Fighting reports that Rogan will call the action alongside Daniel Cormier and Jon Anik, with Megan Olivi working as the cageside reporter for the event. The UFC 290 fight card is expected to be headlined by a featherweight title unification fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Yair Rodriguez. In the co-main event flyweight champion Brandon Moreno will defend his belt against Alexandre Pantoja.
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