Conor McGregor demands apology from ESPN pundit over Cerrone comments
Bringing Stephen A. Smith into the broadcast team for UFC 246 was always going to ruffle feathers.
Moments after The Octagon cleared and UFC 246 was in the history books, Stephen A Smith stood alongside Joe Rogan to break down Conor McGregor's rapid-fire victory over Donald Cerrone.
While Rogan opted to concentrate on McGregor's ruthless performance in that 40-second triumph, Smith dished it out to the beaten Cerrone. He declared:
"15 seconds in, ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone was done... it look like he gave up... We didn't learn a damn thing about Conor McGregor tonight; that's the reality. The man didn't get hit, other than one kick to the arm. Listen, I have gotten hit more than that in the last week!"
While many viewers would have agreed with much of what Smith was saying, his comments on Cerrone giving up did rankle some in the fight community. Brendan Schaub was not impressed with Smith's diatribe while, on his podcast this week, Joe Rogan had some choice words for his ESPN colleague.
"There’s no positive in downplaying the career of Donald Cerrone and what he can do as a fighter," Rogan commented.
"What that showed to me is how phenomenal Conor performed. [Smith's comments are] a bad look for everybody. It’s a bad look for ESPN, it’s a bad look for him, it’s a bad look for the sport. There’s other people that can do this. We have plenty of people out there who understand the sport. There’s plenty of them."
Rogan countered that he could see why the "popular" Smith was brought on-board but he feels ESPN took a mis-step. "He’s a fun guy to watch and people love sh**-talking and they love people arguing about sh** and one person is better at arguing," said Rogan. "Stephen A. Smith is really good at that stuff. But it’s not the place for MMA. It’s just not the place. It’s not the same thing."
Having made a name for himself as a basketball pundit, Smith has covered boxing and MMA during his broadcast career. The 52-year-old took exception with Rogan's comments and duly responded. That then drew McGregor into the debate.
"I certainly don’t claim to be the aficionado you are or anybody else covering the sport but excuse me, I have been a reporter for 25 years. I have covered sports on a variety of competitive levels, regardless of what the sport is, that includes boxing and the UFC."
Smith went on to say Cerrone did, in fact, 'fold inside 20 seconds' and that the fight did not convince him that McGregor had enough to beat Khabib Nurmagomedov in a rematch, nor Jorge Masvidal at 170lbs.
Into the fray arrived McGregor.
'The call you discuss here is A+,' McGregor stated. 'I didn’t show enough. I’m not paid by the hour though. Joe’s comments however, come from you saying the opposition fighter quit. Broken nose/orbital bone say different. Fighting is vicious. Those who make the walk deserve full respect! Apologise.'
The call you discuss here is A+. I didn’t show enough. I’m not paid by the hour though. Joe’s comments however, come from you saying the opposition fighter quit. Broken nose/orbital bone say different. Fighting is vicious. Those who make the walk deserve full respect!
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) January 26, 2020
Smith twice responded to McGregor's tweet and clarified that he expected more from a veteran fighter like Cerrone. He signed off by wishing them well but there was no apology forthcoming.
It will be interesting to see if Stephen A. Smith is involved on the ESPN broadcast of UFC 247 next month.