Who would have thought we would live long enough for Conor McGregor to be the voice of reason?
A week on from his return to the UFC, it’s exactly the position he’s taken on, calling out big money ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith.
Smith, who just signed a five-year contract with the network, was thrust into the UFC coverage for the Conor McGregor-Donald Cerrone fight. It comes after the UFC and ESPN signed a $1.5 billion, five-year deal in 2019 with 30 Fight Nights a year as well as the rights to pay-per view events through ESPN+.
The actual fight lasted just 40 seconds before McGregor sent the American to hospital with a broken nose and orbital bone. Cerrone will have to sit out the next six months while he heals.
But while the action in the octagon lasted less than a minute, outside the ring, it was just beginning as Smith joined long-time UFC commentator Joe Rogan to discuss the fight.
Smith unleashed on Cerrone.
“I’m quite disgusted,” Smith said. “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 look like he gave up. It was just an atrocious performance on his part.”
Social media was quick to note the look on Rogan’s face. He unleashed on Smith on his “Joe Rogan Experience MMA Show” episode this week, lashing the ESPN personality.
He took aim at the claims that Cerrone, who has the most wins in the UFC, most wins by finish and most bonuses in UFC history, was called a quitter after suffering the facial fractures.
“With fighting, you have to know it, or no one’s going to respect you,” he said. “If you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re talking about it in front of millions of people, man that’s a bad look for everybody. It’s a bad look for ESPN, it’s a bad look for him, it’s a bad look for the sport. It’s like … there’s other people that can do this.
“There’s a lot of currency in being a Stephen A. Smith, you know? He’s really entertaining. The s–t-talking that he does …. he’s a guy that’s fun to watch. He talks a lot of s–t and he gets real loud and everybody disagrees with him. Look, it’s made him a fantastic career. That’s why, and he carries that over to MMA. I think it’s a bad idea.”
But the reason Smith is on the big bucks at ESPN is that he doesn’t back down — and he’s not backing down from Rogan.
In a video posted to Twitter, Smith said Rogan was “just wrong”.
Smith began arguing the numbers of subscribers on ESPN+ were great, before defending his position.
“I don’t claim to be the aficionado you are or anybody else covering the sport,” he said. “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.
“It don’t take much to look at three shoulder shots to the nose that Conor McGregor gave ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, watching him fold inside of 20 seconds, knowing that he only got one strike off, and oh, by the way, that was blocked by Conor.
“Conor McGregor did not get the opportunity to show us enough. For us to believe Nurmagomedov or Masvidal, that’s something that could potentially happen to them. I didn’t see it, because ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, in his first pay-per-view match, folded. I respect him, but he folded like a cheap tent. Period. Bad night for him. Bad night. That’s all. And I stand by that. And I’m going to still stand by that.”
The 3 minutes and 30 second video has been widely seen but the most telling response came from McGregor himself.
The Irishman was nothing but respectful towards Cerrone throughout the fight but after the took to Twitter, demanding an apology from Smith.
“The call you discuss here is A+. I didn’t show enough. I’m not paid by the hour though,” McGregor wrote. “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! Apologise.”
Just to show he doesn’t back down from anyone, Smith again responded to the criticism.
In this clash, it seems like Smith is swimming against the general consensus of the UFC and if you’re driving down the road and everyone is going the wrong way, maybe you are the problem.
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