In the wake of Conor McGregor’s incredibly quick knockout win over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at last week’s UFC 246 pay-per-view, Stephen A. Smith said he didn’t think Conor had proven much because Cerrone didn’t offer enough of a fight.
Joe Rogan took exception to a line of thinking, interpreting it as a shot at Cerrone the UFC legend instead of Cerrone’s one-night performance, offering a lengthy critique of Stephen A. on his own MMA podcast. You can read the whole thing at MMA Junkies, if you like; a selected transcript:
“That’s a bad look for everybody,” Rogan said. “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. … We have plenty of people out there who understand the sport. There’s plenty of them. But the thing about him is he’s really popular. (He just got a contract extension) because his personality is so fun. He’s a fun guy to watch and people love (expletive)-talking and they love people arguing about (expletive) and one person is better at arguing. Stephen A. Smith is really good at that stuff. But it’s not the place for MMA. It’s just not the place. It’s not the same thing.”
Rogan made it clear numerous times he thinks Smith is a “nice guy” and each of the handful of face-to-face interactions they’e shared have been positive. He said he understands the brand Smith has built for himself, and the image he portrays, but was insistent that’s not the type of persona that belongs in a prominent MMA analysis role.
“There’s a lot of currency in being Stephen A. Smith,” Rogan said. “He’s really entertaining. That (expletive)-talking that he does, he’s a guy that’s fun to watch. He talks a lot of (expletive) and he gets real loud and everyone disagrees with him. Look, it’s made him a fantastic career. He carries that over to MMA – I think it’s a bad idea.”
Stephen A., meanwhile, caught wind of this and promised to respond after he took care of some “family business”, which was presumably more innocuous than how that phrase probably sounds when you imagine him saying it.
I’m busy with family business for the next couple of hours. But I will respond to this BULLSHIT………TODAY!
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 25, 2020
And respond he did, via a 3.5 minute Twitter video.
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 26, 2020
It’s not so much a feud as it is a cordial disagreement, really, which is almost admirable. Presumably because both men know they each have large platforms should they choose to lob more personal bombs, although both are cutting it a bit close to that line, too. Again, a selected transcript via MMA Junkies:
“I don’t claim to be the aficionado you are or anybody else covering the sport. 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. I don’t give a damn if I did it; 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. 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 against (Khabib) Nurmagomedov, that wouldn’t cut it. Or against (Jorge) Masvidal, that wouldn’t cut it. Because that’s what you judge greatness by. It’s not just the fight that they’re in; it’s about who they’re about to go against.
What are we talking about here? We’re talking about Conor McGregor against one of those two guys potentially next. So, you look at him and you say, ‘Excuse me, did I see enough after such a long layoff?’ Losing to Nurmagomedov and before that an exhibition boxing match against Floyd Mayweather, did you see enough? Hell no, we didn’t see enough. Nothing wrong with that. I stated that that night. I’ll state it again. I’ll state it next week, next month, next year. I stand by that. And I don’t think disagreeing with that position warrants the kind of criticism that came in my direction.
“Having said that, you’re entitled. You have your right, just like I have my right to respond, as I’m doing right now. But 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 the world of sports, name the time and place, Joe Rogan, and I’ll show up. It’s not a problem. It’s not a problem at all. 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.
Stephen A. was certainly within his rights to return the critique, and it’s kind of easy to see the line they’re debating. Rogan is essentially saying that criticizing Cerrone in the manner Smith did was piling on after the beating he already literally took. Smith, meanwhile, is pointing to that easy loss as a stepping stone to analyzing what’s next for McGregor, and therein lies the conflict.
Also, ESPN should definitely title a morning debate show Having Said That, You’re Entitled.