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For 14 years, he's been the voice of the Octagon, taking millions of new fans by the hand and guiding them through the Byzantine world of MMA. At the same time, he's continued his life as a comedian, releasing a number of successful specials and hosting one of the world's most popular podcasts.
Occasionally, however, those worlds collide, as witnessed last December when Rogan hosted his UFC boss Dana White on his show. An insensitive joke at the expense of Cris "Cyborg" Justino was widely condemned, most notably by my colleague Sydnie Jones.
Much has changed since Rogan's early days with the UFC. What was once an underground spectacle held in small towns such as Dothan, Alabama, has become a corporate phenomenon, with Good Morning America replacing Full Contact Fighter as the news source of the day.
Does Rogan still fit in this new-era UFC? Or will he have to choose between two successful careers? He sat down with Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden to discuss what the future may hold.
B/R: So bringing it back around, I guess, when your worlds collide like they did with the Cyborg joke, do you think it demands a different approach? When your comedy is MMA-focused? You might have to commentate a Cris Cyborg fight one day. Do have a different professional obligation to play it straight?
Rogan: Ultimately, this was an area where my two professions collided and I went on impulse, and that impulse was to go for a laugh. I would chalk the whole thing up on my part to a combination of poor decision-making, alcohol and the environment that I was having the conversation in which is a podcast with two comedians going for the joke. It’s a situation where my two separate professions collided and I failed to navigate them correctly. I f--ked up, plain and simple.
I certainly think, especially in retrospect that I do have a different professional obligation when I’m making a joke about a fighter that I might have to commentate on. Obviously, in the moment, alcohol and all, I didn’t consider it, and I f--ked up... Being a stand-up comedian and a fight commentator at the same time is tricky business. Maybe too tricky.
B/R: Is it hard sometimes not to bring up things like drug suspensions and other negative things that rarely seem to make UFC broadcasts?
Rogan: One thing that you never hear me talk about during the broadcast is testosterone replacement therapy. I had to bite my f--king tongue when Vitor Belfort was fighting Chris Weidman because I think as a fan and as an analyst it is my job to point out issues with the sport, significant issues.
Like if someone had undergone a strength and conditioning routine and all the sudden they started putting on all this muscle and you started seeing them having better performances inside the Octagon, you'd say like, "Hey, Nate Diaz has really stepped up his strength and conditioning, and you can see the results physically in him and you can see the results." That would be a pertinent issue, right?
Rogan: That would be something that we would all want to discuss when you're talking about how a fighter would perform inside the Octagon. But when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs like testosterone or things like that, we were supposed to give it a cursory mention. And that’s it.
I think that is disingenuous, and I think it does a discredit to the overall analysis of the competition itself. And I...
B/R: Do you ever do any pushback? I assume you have the producer saying like, "Hey, you know, tread lightly."
Rogan: No, no, no. They don’t do that. But the UFC has told me to not bring it up. That’s it.
They don’t want to touch it. They want to leave it alone, and they want to leave it up to USADA and Nevada State Athletic Commission, and they just want to talk about the fighter's skill and how they perform inside the Octagon.
B/R: Is it hard for you to maintain the credibility I feel like you’ve built up by telling us the truth for 14 years. Is it hard for you to step back and not say what you want to say?
Rogan: Only in that regard. And that’s why I talk about it on the podcast all the time. And I'm not gonna stop doing that ever. I'm just not.
And if the UFC ever said, "Hey, you gotta stop drinking and talking shit about people doing testosterone," I'd be like, well, this is where we part ways. I'm not going to.
If you want me, while I'm working for you, to not bring up one aspect of this, if that is your choice, I don’t have a problem with that. But if it gets more hairy than that, I'm out.
B/R: I know you've said that when your contract expires, you're not sure you want to keep doing this with UFC. Is it the things like this that have kind of led you in that direction?
Rogan: Potentially. It's potentially confusing to people, I think. But in all fairness, the UFC has never given me a hard time about it. They didn’t give me a hard time about the Cris Cyborg joke; they really don’t ever give me a hard time about anything.
Overall, they’re amazing to work for. It’s a real pleasure.
I really couldn’t ask for more understanding or open-minded employers in that regard, and being able to do what I do for the UFC really is a huge honor and a position that I deeply respect.
I don’t think that this could ever work out the way it does if I didn’t start with them in the beginning. I mean, if they just hired me last month and I cracked an unfortunate joke while drinking booze on a podcast with the president of the company about one of his female fighters having a d--k, I think I would be rightly fired.
B/R: It sounds like you're legitimately thinking about calling it a day?
Rogan: I'm probably gonna think about this over the next few months, what I would be happiest doing. I would always be a fan of the UFC. I don’t think it necessarily makes me more of a fan to do commentary. You know, I mean I think I do it professionally, and it's fun and I enjoy it, but I'd probably enjoy it just as much, if not more, if I was just watching.
LINK: Rogan on His Impact, Future with UFC
UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos is a little lighter in the wallet.
Ahead of his Dec. 19 title defense to Donald Cerrone at UFC on FOX 17, Dos Anjos was seen wearing an Evolve MMA shirt before stepping on the scales to weigh in. Word came this week that Dos Anjos had been docked a "significant" amount by the UFC for violating the promotion's Athlete Outfitting Policy.
Speaking with MMAFighting.com on Wednesday, Dos Anjos revealed that sum to be $10,000.
As a champion, Dos Anjos earned $40,000 as per the UFC's outfitting agreement with Reebok. Cerrone made $30,000 as a title challenger.
LINK: Rafael dos Anjos fined $10,000 for wearing sponsor shirt at UFC on FOX 17 weigh-ins
Aljamain Sterling is right on the cusp of a UFC bantamweight title shot. The #5 ranked contender pulled off a fantastic guillotine choke vs. fellow top 10 ranked Johnny Eduardo at UFC Fight Night 80 in Las Vegas last month. The 26-year-old Long Island native is a perfect 12-0 in his MMA career, including 4-0 inside the Octagon. He's recorded 3 finishes in a row and has established himself as a potential UFC title challenger.
But, there's just one problem: Sterling's immediate future may not be in the UFC.
The Eduardo fight represented the last one on Sterling's current deal. His reported salary for UFC Fight Night 80 was $14,000/$14,000, well below the $40,000/$40,000 figure for unranked lightweight prospect Sage Northcutt. Sterling already turned down what he called a "laughable" offer from the UFC of $20,000/$20,000 (with $3,000 increases after each fight).
Sterling was asked whether or not he's been chastised or been given a talking to by the higher-ups in the UFC.
"From the upper echelon of the promotion? No I have not," said Sterling. "But I wouldn't be surprised if I did. Actually, I would be surprised, because I don't feel like I'm saying anything crazy. I don't think I'm saying anything over the top, right? I don't know, I can't judge for myself, but I think I'm saying everything in a respectful manner at the same time. I don't think there's anything I said it in such a way where [the UFC thinks] I'm throwing the company under the bus. It's just ... I'm just stating facts and I'm stating reasons why things should change."
As far as Sterling's future, he says his manager, Malki Kawa, told him another promotion was interested in signing him for more money than the UFC has offered, but never disclosed which one it was.
"I haven't even spoken to [Malki Kawa] yet because of the holidays. I know he told me another company was willing to pay me a lot more if I was really serious about coming over. I told him I'm for real, this is no joke. I'm trying to get paid. This whole legacy thing is cool, but at the end of the day, if I'm going to be crippled and broken up, I'd rather have money to go with it than to be crippled, broken up, and poor and just regretful and have a bad taste in my mouth from the sport, so I'm just looking out for #1."
LINK: Aljamain Sterling: If I'm going to be crippled and broken up, I'd rather have money to go with it
Aljamain hitting everyone with the truth, exposing Zuffa as crooks
Nick Diaz's settlement did not come without concessions.
On Tuesday, the Nevada Athletic Commission unanimously approved the terms of a deal with Diaz, reducing his suspension to 18 months and his fine to $100,000. The NAC had previously suspended Diaz for five years and fined him $165,000 in September for testing positive for marijuana for the third time in the state.
Diaz will now be able to fight as early as Aug. 1. That's the good news. However, in order for the deal to go through, Diaz had to declare in writing that he "wrongfully" took the Fifth Amendment in the original hearing.
In the declaration, Diaz said his legal counsel advised him to take the Fifth "when questioned by the Commission regarding my use of marijuana and, more particularly, whether I used marijuana prior to the January 31, 2015 fight."
"After conferring with new counsel," Diaz wrote, "I determined that I wrongfully invoked Fifth Amendment in response to relevant questions posed by members of the Commission and that I should have, and would have, testified to the Commission that I did not use marijuana 'in-competition,' as that term is defined by the World Anti-Doping Agency ('WADA') in its Anti-Doping Code.""
Middlebrook told MMA Fighting on Tuesday night that the Fifth Amendment controversy was a pivotal part of the settlement agreement.
"It became apparent that the NAC wanted the Fifth Amendment issue as part of any negotiated settlement and therefore the choice was between lengthy litigation or having Nick resume his career this summer," Middlebrook said. "While I, along with my team, still fully stand by Nick's invocation of his Constitutional rights and maintain it was the right legal decision, our main focus was resuming Nick's career. I truly hope moving forward that due process of the law is a reality and not just a legal catchphrase."
LINK: Nick Diaz declared he 'wrongfully' took Fifth Amendment as part of NAC settlement agreement
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