Joe Rogan received negative reactions from some UFC 223 viewers on Saturday night for his criticism of Khabib Nurmagomeodov’s stand-up during a dominant win over Al Iaquinta that led to him being crowned the new lightweight champion.
Several times during the fight Rogan suggested that there were holes in Nurmagomedov’s striking that suggested he’s not as invincible as some have presented him to be, but some felt he was being overly harsh given that ‘The Eagle’ was still in complete control of a top-10 ranked opponent who had only been drafted in on 24 hours notice.
After taking time to reflect on the event and the criticism his commentary received, Rogan has now written a lengthy post explaining his thought process and assuring Nurmagomedov and his many supporters that he is still a big fan of the new champion.
“It is insanely rare to have a fighter as dominant as Khabib Nurmagomedov.” Rogan wrote on Instagram. “In one of the most talent-stacked divisions to go 25 and 0 is incredible, but to do it without even having a rough moment in a fight is completely unheard of.
The closest thing to adversity he’s had to face in the Octagon before Saturday was one solid punch that was landed by Michael Johnson in a fight that was otherwise a horrifically one-sided mauling. When I’m commentating on someone that dominant I am constantly looking for cracks in their armor, and on Saturday night we saw the first of those cracks exposed by an incredibly game Al Iaquinta.
Most people, myself included, expected the highly favored Khabib to rag doll his last minute opponent the way he’s done to everyone else he faced in the Octagon, and that was the case in the early going, but as the fight got into the later rounds Al was able to keep the fight standing and we saw some possible flaws in Khabib’s defense. Make no mistake about it, Khabib won that fight by a landslide, but it went to a decision, and that in and of itself was an upset.
When I’m looking at a fighter as spectacularly talented as Khabib fighting a guy like Al who is an almost impossible underdog I’m not just looking at this fight, but I’m looking at openings that can possibly be exploited by the best fighters in the division. I saw some of those openings Saturday night, and I certainly found them interesting. In no way am I biased against Khabib, in fact, I’m a massive fan of his and he’s one of my all-time favorite fighters. If any of you were annoyed by my concentrating on that aspect of an incredibly dominant performance by one of the most impressive guys in the history of the division, please accept my sincere apology.
When I commentate on fights my goal is to highlight the action and make it more exciting for the fans at home. Obviously, all this is done live in real time, and if I had to go back and do it again I would often be able to do a better job. Even after all the years I’ve been commentating I still learn something new about the position with each and every event, and when that stops happening that will most likely be when I quit.”