Following on from Saturday night’s crowd-pleasing UFC 216, a point needs to be made in the argument in favour of the one man who should fill the legendary Joe Rogan’s shoes upon his retirement, whenever that may be.
UFC 216, all in all, was a resounding success. Of course, the record-breaking win from flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson was matched only by the sheer ridiculousness of the fifth-round flying-armbar finish he used to get the job done, and as for the main-event the interim champ Tony Ferguson once again proved his mettle and outstanding durability in what was one of the toughest fights of his career.
Four successive submission victories ended the main-card and though there were shocks, thrilling contests and truly admirable shows of heart throughout the night’s proceedings, I’d like to draw attention to something that became clearer and clearer as the night unfolded.
Joe Rogan has been one of the most recognisable figures in the sport of MMA for some time now. His work as the UFC’s colour-commentator over the years has been as much a part of the UFC spectacle as the energetic announcing skills of Bruce Buffer or the no-nonsense media handling of UFC president Dana White, but when it emerged that Rogan’s role in the promotion was being cut down due to his wish to avoid strenuous travel, MMA fans across the world promptly let out a collective groan.
After that, when Joe announced outright himself that he did not intend on sticking around forever, discussions over who would fill his near unfillable boots were rampant.
So, what exactly is it that makes Rogan so indispensable to the UFC’s make-up?
Well, for starters, he knows his stuff.
As a former US Open taekwondo champion, a four-time Massuchussetts full-contact state champion and a 10th Planet Brazilian jiu-jitsu black-belt under the famed Eddie Bravo, Rogan has singled himself out as one of the leading authorities on mixed martial arts in the present day. Couple this with his two-decade long association with the UFC and it’s easy to see why he stands alone as someone who both fits the role as well as one who has had a long and storied connection to the sport, through both its ups and its downs.
But still, experts – in any field – are not guaranteed to be in any way charismatic enough to hold the attentions of those tuning in to watch but luckily for Rogan, his side-pursuits include a hosting gig on one of the most popular podcasts on the planet, the Joe Rogan Experience, and a successful career as a stand-up comic, a job that in itself would provide him with all of the public speaking composure necessary to be the very best he can be under the pressure of working in the high-intensity world of sports-commentary.
Of course, another key factor, and something that is proven inarguable by the immense popularity of his aforementioned podcast, is that people like Rogan.
He’s a pop-culture figure, he’s well-known and his words – as a result of that – carry weight.
People want to hear what Rogan has to say – he’s not just some cookie-cutter fight-caller who knows when to say the right things at the right time. He’s funny, he bounces well off of others and just in general, is a crazily interesting dude.
So when looking for someone to replace this man, several boxes need to be ticked without fail, and while there will certainly be many who disagree with me on this one, I think there is only one man out there who could do the job to a standard that even comes close.
And that man, ladies and gentlemen, is the UFC’s light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.
Cormier has always been something of a divisive figure amongst the MMA community but when you think about it, he is the perfect fit for this job and if the early signs are any indication, he really does look like he is setting himself up to get the call whenever he retires.
Expertise-wise, DC has already proven himself as a fight-caller. The insight he gives mid-fight – especially when the fight hits the deck – really does serve to lessen the somewhat jarring effect of seeing a mixed martial arts contest for the first time.
We’ve all been there. Punches and kicks are a universal language that virtually anyone can understand but for many newcomers, the slower and more tactical battles that take place on the mat and up against the fence really do detract from the experience as a whole and in general, leave those watching frustrated.
With the ever-increasing popularity of this sport, the UFC needs people like Cormier – and indeed his colleague and fellow fighter Dominick Cruz – to break down these exchanges like only a fighter can. It just isn’t enough for Jon Anik to tell you that ‘Demian Maia is looking to move to half-guard’ and in fairness, while the die-hards might roll their eyes, the so-called casuals are as much a part of the sport as those who live, breath and die by it.
So obviously, as a UFC champion, an Olympic wrestler and one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all-time, having Cormier’s input serves the same purpose as the old days where the likes of Randy Couture would join in on the commentary. It’s a recognisable name giving insight drawn from first-hand experience and is something that should never be absent from MMA coverage.
DC has, of course, been honing his skills as a broadcaster through his work on UFC on FOX and love him or hate him, it’s clear to see that he’s funny, charismatic and a strong-talker under the lights, all characteristics that are vital in succeeding in this position.
The 205lb champ might rub some people up the wrong way, yes, but at 38, he will know that he is close to achieving everything he could possibly achieve in this sport and while a move to heavyweight would be nothing short of enthralling, I’m sure a part of Daniel Cormier knows that the clock is ticking on his career, and that a brand-new pursuit is there, waiting to be pounced on.
And in fairness, can you really name a better pick for the job?
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena