If UFC 249 does go ahead, as Dana White has insisted, don’t expect long-serving color commentator Joe Rogan to take part.
Speaking on his Joe Rogan Experience podcast, the 52-year old has confirmed that due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, he won’t be appearing on the broadcast. “The UFC’s talking about putting on a fight on April 18. I don’t know how they’re going to do that,” Rogan began. “I don’t know if they’re going to be able to do that in the United States. They’re talking about doing it in a place with less than ten people. An open arena. I guess someone’s going to commentate it. It’s not going to be me. And they’re going to be duking it out in an empty place.”
As Rogan went on the point out, the UFC did just that at UFC Brasilia earlier this month. That, however, was a last-minute change in response to a mass gathering ban put in place by the government in Brasilia. UFC 249 is different, as the UFC is actually planning in advance to host a closed-door show.
“They’re going to plan Khabib-Tony,” said Rogan. “It doesn’t even have to be a big place. They could do it in a film studio. Legitimately, they could set this up in a film studio somewhere. Tyler Perry has a place in Florida, they could go down to Florida, rent one of Tyler Perry’s gigantic film studios— we did it when we did Fight for the Troops [in San Diego].” The podcast host went on to note that the UFC had even done shows in airplane hangers.
“They could do that. They could do that in just a studio, or a large warehouse. The UFC could do it. Set up some lights, have some crazy high-speed hookup to the internet,” continued Rogan.
“The thing is, how are they going to make sure that nobody has it?” he questioned. “You’re going to have to test everybody. And if someone has it, do you let them fight? What if they have it, and they’re like Idris Elba? They have no symptoms, but they have the corona? What if Khabib [Nurmagomedov] has the corona, or what if Tony [Ferguson] has the corona? Does Khabib even fight him?”
Actor Idris Elba announced he had tested positive for the virus earlier this month. A number of athlets and celebrities, including opera singer Plácido Domingo and British royal Prince Charles have also tested positive for the disease. To date, over 500,000 people have been infected by SARS-CoV-2, while over 27,000 have died from the ensuing illness, COVID-19.
UFC President Dana White has been under fire, hit with heavy criticism over his insistence at pushing forward with the event, despite most of the planet being on lockdown. He appears hell-bent on ensuring the Khabib vs. Ferguson fight is not cancelled a fifth time. It’s now interesting to see one of his most loyal lieutenants, Rogan, stepping away from the broadcast.
Rogan first worked with the UFC in 1997, when he served as an interviewer at UFC 12. He would spend the next two years in that role, before stepping away, only to return in 2002 under the ownership of Zuffa, and with it, Dana White. With the exploding popularity of the Joe Rogan Experience, the comic and interviewer has worked a reduced schedule for the UFC in recent years. However, he has remained a major part of UFC Pay-Per-View events.