Popular ESPN talking head Stephen A. Smith will be part of this weekend’s UFC festivities.
MMA Fighting confirmed with sources with knowledge of the assignments that Smith is set to join Saturday’s UFC 264 event as a desk analyst alongside former UFC champions Dominick Cruz and Michael Bisping. ESPN anchor Michael Eaves will also be part of the main desk, while Karyn Bryant and Smith’s First Take co-host Max Kellerman lead a second analyst desk.
The broadcast assignments were first reported by MMA Junkie.
Cageside commentary duties will be handled by big show veterans Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier, and Joe Rogan.
As per usual with UFC pay-per-views, Bruce Buffer will serve as the in-cage announcer.
Megan Olivi and Laura Sanko will share backstage and roving reporter duties.
Smith has become a familiar face to MMA fans in recent years since the UFC partnered up with sports broadcasting giant ESPN. The outspoken pundit raised plenty of eyebrows when he called out longtime UFC veteran Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone for what he felt was a lackluster performance against Conor McGregor at UFC 246 in January of last year. Rogan criticized Smith’s analysis of Cerrone’s performance, but Smith didn’t back down and, in fact, later doubled down on his statements.
This past February, Smith also drew criticism from the MMA community for stating that he didn’t want to see women fighting in the octagon.
In another notable incident, Olivi told reporters at a media day that she was “hurt” that Smith left her out of a tweet praising ESPN’s UFC broadcast team.
UFC 264 will be headlined by a trilogy bout between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor. The broadcast is scheduled to begin with early preliminaries at 6 p.m. ET, followed by preliminaries at 8 p.m. ET. Both of these portions of the event will air on ESPN+ and ESPN.
The main card begins at 10 p.m. ET and is available exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view.