UFC 259 is the most loaded fight card of 2021 with four world champions competing in three title fights, with middleweight champion Israel Adesanya attempting to become a two-division world champion when he challenges Jan Blachowicz for his light heavyweight title.
But with a card this significant, one of the questions becomes whether Joe Rogan will hold down the commentary booth alongside Daniel Cormier or Jon Anik?
Perhaps the most recognizable voice calling UFC fights has been noticeably absent from commentary, and some have questioned if he is slowly stepping back from his duties calling fights. He wasn’t part of the commentary team when Dustin Poirier knocked out Conor McGregor at UFC 257 but found his way back for Kamaru Usman’s successful welterweight title defense against Gilbert Burns at UFC 258.
Is he here to stay?
Well, it appears that Rogan will take his place with his trademark quips and shouts at the UFC’s third PPV of the year.
MORE: Sign up to watch UFC 259 on ESPN+
Why did Joe Rogan stop commentating?
It’s not that Rogan stopped commentating, more that his original decision — he wouldn’t do UFC cards outside of the United States — became more apparent with Abu Dhabi’s Fight Island becoming the UFC’s temporary home in 2020 and early 2021.
“I’m not interested. I would take this for zero money over being in Phoenix right now,” Rogan said in 2019 during a JRE Fight Companion after being asked if he wanted a role with ESPN’s new UFC deal.
“Although I would want to see those fights live and call those fights live, I’m good with 10 [events] a year — 10 a year is what I like. Once a month, two months off.
“Listen, man, I was thinking I was on my way out, but I still love it. And I love it way more now because I don’t have to do it as much. And I love it way more now because we do this because we can do all of this shit-talking, have fun and be silly.”
Will Joe Rogan continue to call UFC fights in the United States?
It appears that way.
“Until I stop getting the juice,” Rogan told Unlocking the Cage in September 2020. “I get the juice, 100 percent. It hasn’t waned that much. If there’s a big fight — it doesn’t even have to be a big fight. It can be a semi-big fight. I get the juice, man. I’m never going to not get the juice.
“I mean I get it for Junior dos Santos vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik. I get it for everybody!”
While only calling the domestic PPV fights has certainly kept the color commentator interested, the eerie nature of UFC fights in empty arenas made Rogan appreciate his unique position.
“And one of the things about COVID is that I’ve been calling these fights with no audience,” Rogan said.
“The one we’ve done in Florida and the cards that I’ve done at the UFC Apex Center, I feel so fortunate because I’m one of the very few people that’s there live. There’s something really special about live fights. I love watching fights at home. I love it, but there’s an extra juice about seeing it live,” he said.
“And when you know you’re one of, you know, 20 people or so that’s inside the Apex Center — all the officials, the referees, corner people, and the commentators and camera folks — there’s a small handful of people and every time I’m there, I think, ‘Man, I’m so fortunate’.”
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Will Joe Rogan leave the UFC?
Rogan floated the possibility of finishing up with the UFC as early as 2016 when his contract was coming to an end — though he later extended his tenure.
“You got to experience different things in life and I like to plan those things out,” he said. “I’ve been doing the UFC for a long time. I will never stop being a UFC fan though, that’s not going to happen. I love the sport, but there’s probably going to be a time where I don’t do commentary anymore, and it might be sooner than later.”
When the ESPN deal came through in 2019, Rogan again discussed perhaps restricting himself to PPV events — which he has done — but hasn’t put an end date on his working relationship with the UFC.
Do Joe Rogan’s co-commentators care that he’s not always at shows?
This keeps showing up in the corners of the internet, leading to Jon Anik to put down his Modelo: Brewed for those with a fighting spirit and clarify that it’s not the case — and never has been.
“I can assure you that he ain’t going nowhere,” Anik said on What The Heck. “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.”
Joe Rogan backlash after UFC 258 commentary
As mentioned above, not everyone was thrilled with the podcast king’s return to commentary for UFC 258.
“I have seen some of that,” Anik said of the criticism toward 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.”