The sports world has been buzzing all week about the brief skirmish in the MGM Grand lobby in Las Vegas on Monday between the light heavyweight champ and the former Olympian. A general consensus is to sweep the entire incident under the rug and enjoy all of the excitement and extra attention the pre-fight drama has created.
But things aren’t always so black and white for MMA, a babe sport still seeking acceptance.
Rogan believes the incident will have strong repercussions and paint the UFC in a negative light. The same old farts shaking their wrinkly fingers at the world’s fastest growing sport now have ammunition to continue to paint MMA as exceptionally violent and unprofessional.
“It was ridiculous,” Rogan said on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. “This can’t happen. You can’t do that. This is real bad for the sport. It’s real bad for public perception. It’s a weapon to be used against MMA. It’s unfortunate.”
Jones inadvertently poured gasoline on an already simmering fire by putting his forehead into Cormier’s face during the staredown for their upcoming light heavyweight championship bout at UFC 178. Cormier immediately responded by shoving Jones in the neck.
Things quickly escalated into a melee unlike anything ever seen in the UFC as Jones stormed forward throwing punches at the top contender. UFC and security personnel made every attempt to separate the fighters, and the fight ended up in a huge dog pile on the lobby floor.
Intense staredowns and verbal garbage spouted back and forth between fighters is typical in these kinds of events. However, it’s rare to see a pair of professional athletes as high up on the food chain as Jones and Cormier failing to contain themselves before a fight.
“I think it’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous and some of it’s gamesmanship, but it’s just so bad for the image of the sport,” Rogan continued, adding:
It’s pretty rare [that this happens], but that’s a high-profile fight. Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate got head-to-head in each other’s faces, and it was pretty hot right? But they were professional about it. They didn’t do anything about it. These guys were not professional. You can’t do that. You can’t grab each other and f------g slap.
Gaining a mental edge over an opponent is one of the most important aspects of fighting. Staredowns during weigh-ins and press conferences basically turn into psychological games for fighters looking to get a feel for their opponent.
Both fighters are typically filled with adrenaline, but they are expected to contain the excitement and save everything for the fight. Two athletes agreeing on a certain date to show up and compete against one another in a combative situation is what separates MMA from street fighting.
The incident between Jones and Cormier blurs the lines of that concept.
People who are already fans of MMA are more forgiving. The entire ordeal has garnered tons of media attention and likely turned a big fight into one of the most anticipated title bouts in UFC history.
Sadly, it does little to convince skeptics that MMA deserves a permanent place in the sports world. UFC President Dana White and company have been trying for years to break the ignorant belief that fighters are nothing more than street thugs competing in a human cockfighting circle. There is no wiggle room for mistakes for a sport under the microscope.
Rogan calls the incident a “street fight,” nothing more or less:
The importance of that not happening is huge. It’s huge. It’s just such a negative connotation attached to what that is, just violence. The difference between that kind of violence and the violence of a sport is that the violence of a sport, everyone is agreeing with that scenario. You’re agreeing to train for X amount of weeks for X amount of rounds. You’re going to fight this guy, he weighs what you weigh.
Everybody prepares, you meet at this day and you compete. It’s a very dangerous form of competition, and yes, it is fighting as a competition, but it’s not violence the same way that that is. That’s a street fight. That’s a world champion mixed martial arts fighter and an Olympic wrestler, and they’re street fighting. That’s bad for everybody. That’s bad for wrestling. That’s bad for MMA. That’s bad for sports.
Jones and Cormier will settle things once and for all when they step into the cage on September 27 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Rogan admits that a part of him enjoyed the scuffle like most MMA fans. It’s tough not to be excited about a pair of undefeated fighters vying for a world title, especially when there is a long-winded feud serving as a backdrop story.
However, there is still a level of professionalism that must be upheld by every athlete.
“Part of me gets bummed out when I see s--t like that, but part of me is like, ‘Look, they’re going to fight eventually, anyway. So they fought a little here. Get a little taste,’” said Rogan.
Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA writer for Rocktagon.