For years and years there was one consistent guarantee for fans turning on a UFC broadcast: whoever might be fighting, Joe Rogan would be calling the action. Alongside current Bellator voice Mike Goldberg, Rogan provided the backbone of the UFC’s broadcast presentation. But, over the past several years, that dynamic has changed.
With the UFC’s sale back in 2016, there was a reasonable amount of speculation that Rogan would leave his UFC work behind altogether—much like Joe Silva, Stitch Duran, and Burt Watson found themselves making their various (and, in the case of Duran and Watson, inglorious) exits. The years of travel and an increasingly demanding schedule were clearly taking their toll. Instead, Rogan stayed on, with a pared down schedule and no more international travel. These days, he’s on the call for PPV events in the US and not much more. When EA Sports rolled out UFC 4, Rogan wasn’t even part of the game’s broadcasting team.
All of which is to say that it seems fans have been taking extra notice of Rogan’s disinterest in UFC commentary work. But if there’s been an increasing wave of criticism on social media, fellow play-by-play man Jon Anik offered a strong defense of his colleague.
“I have seen some of that,” Anik told MMA Fighting in a recent interview, speaking about criticism of Rogan. “Again, the social media space after these live events can be a tough space to sort of engage and habitate. But I think for Joe, there’s a lot of different factors. I think that he has never been happier in that broadcast booth. I hate to put words in his mouth, but I do think he enjoys the dynamic. He was in a two-man booth forever where he was just working with a play-by-play guy and he couldn’t bounce off of a fighter. I feel like it’s been an adjustment for all of us.
“My job is a totally different thing in a three-man booth versus a two-man booth in terms of the real estate that I have, for what is asked of me. I can assure you, big picture, we do look at everything that people say. We ain’t trying to get worse. We’re trying to get better. If you’re asking me, I think he still adds tremendous value. I still think there’s a special, undeniable quality to our broadcast when he is a part of it.”
Anik went on to add that, for those who might think Rogan’s time in MMA may be coming to an end, he doesn’t expect the comedian/actor/podcast host to be leaving the booth any time soon.
“I can assure you that he ain’t going nowhere,” Anik stated. “Again, I hate to put words in his mouth, but he absolutely loves this job and I think we had a little international flare with the pay-per-views at the end of the year—UFC 251, 253, 254—that he wasn’t a part of because they were happening in Abu Dhabi. But hopefully domestic pay-per-views return more so in 2021 and he gets a chance to get back out there more often.
“It’s not that easy stepping up every eight weeks trying to do one of these things, and constantly having a revolving door with the broadcast team, but I love the guy. I’ve never been closer with the guy and hopefully he’s here well past me.”
Rogan is expected to join Jon Anik and Daniel Cormier in the booth for this coming Saturday’s UFC 258 PPV event, his first event of 2021. The card is set to be headlined by a welterweight title fight between reigning champion Kamaru Usman and longtime former teammate Gilbert Burns. Stay tuned for more news and notes as fight night approaches.