Why Didn’t Joe Rogan Make the Jump to ESPN with the UFC?

(Courtesy of JRE Clips)

The Ultimate Fighting Championship earlier this year entered its biggest, most prestigious media partnership ever when it began a long-term broadcasting deal with ESPN and the sports network icon’s vast array of media properties. While the focal point of the deal is ESPN+, a new digital streaming service from ESPN, Sunday night marked the UFC’s first event on ESPN’s flagship cable network. 

Joe Rogan began working for the UFC in the late 90s as a backstage and post-fight interviewer, but that gig only lasted a couple of years. Dana White and the Fertitta brothers took over the UFC in 2001. A year later, Rogan began working color commentary for UFC events and has been a staple of the fight promotion’s broadcast team ever since.

So why didn’t Rogan make the jump to ESPN broadcasts, a move that should prove to be a historical milestone for the UFC in regard to its media positioning?

He’s hinted at it before, saying that while he loves doing fight commentary, “First of all, I was doing too many of them. At one point I was doing 24 a year, it was way too many. It was like half of the weekends of the year, I was flying somewhere to go to the UFC. It was too much.”

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Rogan now how one of the premier podcasts in the world, and part of that is his Fight Companion episodes, which take place during fights that he isn’t commentating. In the latest such Fight Companion, for Sunday night’s UFC Fight Night on ESPN, Rogan explained why he isn’t a part of the UFC’s broadcast team on ESPN, even on the flagship network.