Outside of Dana White’s ever-present position as the face of the UFC, it’s hard to think of two people more ingrained in the company’s DNA than Joe Rogan and Bruce Buffer. The ‘Voice of the Octagon’ got his start with the promotion way back in the SEG days of 1996 at UFC 10. Rogan would hop on board just a year later – in the role of backstage reporter – at UFC 12: Judgement Day in Dothan, Alabama.
While Rogan left that position after only a couple of years, he ended up back working for the UFC in 2002 — this time under Zuffa, and in the role of play-by-play commentator. And although other familiar figures have come and gone over time, he has remained a fixture ever since.
In White’s mind, the passion and talent that Rogan has delivered over the last 15+ years is a major reason that the world’s largest MMA organization has grown to become the dominant force it is.
“When you talk about talent, he’s the best ever,” White told Barstool Sports (transcript via MMA Mania). “Part of the reason we’ve grown so fast is because Rogan’s ability to walk you through what’s going on while it’s happening. He’s brilliant, he’s so good, and he’s so passionate about the sport. You feel it when you’re watching. This isn’t a guy who’s just there for the paycheck, this is a guy who loves this stuff. We didn’t pay Rogan the first 12 events he worked, he did them for free. He’s got a great voice for it too, his voice is great.”
As Rogan has previously revealed, for the first dozen or so events he worked, the stand up comedian and actor was compensated mostly in free tickets. Eventually moving to more exchangeable forms of payment... like money. For the majority of his career Rogan worked a two-man booth with longtime play-by-play partner Mike Goldberg. Goldberg left the UFC in late 2016 before jumping over to a commentary position with North American promotional rival Bellator.
More recently, Rogan himself has often talked of potentially walking away from his UFC position, and has drastically cut back on the number of events he attends. In 2017-2018, his work in the booth has been mostly limited to the larger North American PPV events, leaving international and smaller shows for other, more recent additions to the commentary team.
There’s no word yet on the final commentary team for December 29th’s UFC 232 PPV event in Las Vegas, featuring title fights between Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustfasson and Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes. But given the stature and location of the fight card, it would be no surprise if Rogan was on the sidelines once again calling the action.