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Joe Rogan apologizes for Daniel Cormier interview after UFC 214 KO loss to Jon Jones - ‘It was 100-percent my f*ck up’

Joe Rogan interviewing Daniel Cormier was one of the most painful moments in mixed martial arts (MMA) I have witnessed. It was unfair to Cormier on multiple levels — he had just been violently knocked out (watch highlights). Rogan has said repeatedly — and reiterated during and afterward — that he is against interviewing fighters who have just been knocked out.

Rogan issued an official apology this morning via social media:

My apologies to D.C. And to everyone else upset at me for interviewing him after the fight. In all honestly I was kind of in shock and I don't think I realized what I was doing until I had a mic in my hand and I was talking to him. I've said that I don't want to interview fighters after they've been KO'ed and then I did it to someone that I care a great deal about. It was 100% my fuck up and no one pressured me to do it. I posted a series of tweets about it on twitter but I know some of you folks only use instagram or Facebook so I thought the right thing to do is post it here as well. I was beating myself up about it all night, and whenever something like that happens it's always my sincere intention to apologize and express my honest feelings. It'll never happen again.

It was cruel because it immortalized Cormier at his most vulnerable. Fighters are hyper-competitive and optimistic people by nature. Losses affect them deeply, and they usually have sophisticated psychological defenses to insulate themselves from the psychological pain.

Sometimes these defenses make little sense to the rest of us. Nick and Nate Diaz, to hear them tell it, have never lost a fight fairly in their lives. Conor McGregor handled his loss to Nate Diaz pretty well, but he also made Diaz out to be a giant three times his size the first time they fought. Jose Aldo acts as though his fight with McGregor never happened -- in his mind, it was a total fluke. Optimists tend to make external, unstable, and specific attributions for failure. Maybe they were sick that day. Maybe it was a tough weight cut. Maybe they just made a few mistakes that, if corrected, would grant them the win. Cormier himself said that he thought Jones was cheating, on steroids in their first fight. These mental fortifications allow fighters to deal with their losses without feeling like losers.

Rogan’s interview, though, came when Cormier had no time to build these defenses. He caught Cormier in his first conscious moments, still concussed, still in shock, with no memory of what happened or how the fight ended. DC’s voice cracked as he tried to face Rogan’s questions.

“I don’t know, man. I thought the fight was going well. I don’t even know what happened. I think I got kicked in the head. Augh. Man. That is so disappointing.”

Rogan asked Cormier about the rivalry between himself and Jones:

I don’t know man, I guess, if he wins both fights, there is no rivalry, so, I... I don’t know.”

It was needlessly cruel. This is a mentally strong man, a guy who has faced personal loss and tragedy many times over in his life and never quit. Watching him crushed this way felt uncomfortable, voyeuristic. As I sat watching this last night, my buddy pointed out that Cormier’s crying face was destined to be a meme. He was right. Bleacher Report tweeted out asking if the crying Michael Jordan meme had been replaced -- an awful, unfunny tweet they promptly deleted after a storm of negative responses.

They weren’t wrong, though. None of you have an obligation to Cormier to feel bad for him, and many of you won’t. He knew, after all, what he was getting into. He knew the stakes. There are no fairy tale endings in combat sports, especially where Jon Jones’ opponents are concerned.

Anyone who has competed and lost will have tasted a tiny sample of what Cormier was feeling, though. That hopelessness, that knowledge that nothing you can do in the future will ever erase this loss. You can’t go back and fix this mistake — it is permanent. And, in Cormier’s case, in front of the entire watching world. This sensation can be especially hard for those who have a perfect or near-perfect record. Just look at Ronda Rousey. Losing is also harder to swallow the closer you felt to success, and Cormier was doing a lot right in his rematch, even with Jones on two of the three scorecards.

Perhaps I’m just upset because the interview forced me to confront the brutal economics of MMA, the opportunity cost inherent in this sport. For every winner, there is a loser. For every spectacular knockout, there is someone who took that head trauma. Sure, it’s consensual violence. And that’s built into sports, period. Winners and losers. It is much starker in combat sports, though, because there is no one to share the blame. Failure must be owned up to by the individual themselves; for every feel-good victory in this sport, someone else is dealing with loss on the other side of the Octagon. Fighting is also the most direct, personal form of competition possible. Because of that, whether or not it is fair, fighting has deep-seated implications on a fighter’s sense of manhood and/or personal worth.

This particular outcome was especially sad because of DC’s story. This is a guy who was moments away from out-wrestling the great Cael Sanderson; who was unlucky to miss out on a World Championship; who placed fourth in the Olympics, and was considered likely to win the Olympics his second time around, until his body gave out on him during a weight cut. Now, in a fight we was doing well in, he lost forever the chance to get even with his most bitter rival. Jon Jones, a man Cormier dislikes intensely, got the chance to dictate the terms of how Cormier is remembered. This is a reality that Cormier will now be unable to transcend, and the full weight of that knowledge was on his shoulders when Rogan stepped up to him, mic in hand.

What’s that saying? Winners never quit, quitters never win. But those who never win, and never quit? Where does this sport leave them? If they are the second greatest Light Heavyweight of all time, it leaves them interviewed, crying, by Joe Rogan in their most traumatic moment.

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