Stephen A. Smith has done it again. The brash and consistently clueless ESPN analyst was trotted out across a variety of the network’s programming to share his uneducated opinions about mixed martial arts (MMA) after UFC 246, and as usual he voiced the average armchair critic’s position to a tee ... ruffling a number of feathers in the process.
Of course, that’s why ESPN pays him the big bucks ($8 million a year according to one source): he gets people fired up. He says shit that generates headlines. Headlines like ”Stephen A. Smith ‘Disgusted’ By Cowboy’s Performance,” or “Stephen A. Smith: Cowboy Cerrone ‘Looked Like He Gave Up.’”
“Step back, gather yourself,” he said. “The man’s got over 50 fights in his career, for crying out loud. You know how to fight. We’ve seen you. We’ve seen 17 submission, we’ve seen 10 knockouts. Excuse me, step back and go like this, ‘OK, he caught me with the shoulder. I’m a little bit rattled right now. Let me catch my bearings. Let me catch my breath.’ I’m not even a fighter and I know this. C’mon, y’all! You guys fought, I didn’t!”
Smith deserves all the shrugs in the world, one kind because his opinion is worthless and doesn’t matter, and the other because getting hit with a shoulder to the face might give him an iota of the required insight needed to provide coherent and worthwhile opinions on what is happening inside the cage.
And here he is trotting out the old “can’t hack it under the bright lights” argument, a tired cliche that you can apply to any amazing athlete who is just shy of championship caliber (via MMA Junkie):
“This guy knows better, and somehow, someway, you’re in there with Conor McGregor, and I’m going to tell you all something right now,” he said. “He never had a pay-per-view before. He hasn’t been a champion. It could be that the lights were a little bit too bright. I’ve covered sports for a quarter century – not this sport, but sports – and there have been plenty of examples where I’ve seen guys that when the bright lights are brighter, palms get sweaty, backsides get tight, and ... they don’t show up that particular night, and that’s what happened to ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. He didn’t show up – period. and I don’t understand it.”
Smith theorized that “Cowboy” wasn’t ready and basically gave up.
“I’m quite disgusted,” Smith said. “Let me be very, very clear: I’m honored to be up here with you guys. I’m a spectator watching the sport. I expected to see more than 40 seconds. I predicted McGregor was going to win this fight inside of two rounds. I thought he would take him out. Here’s the deal: 15 seconds in, ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone was done. He got hit with those shoulders in the clinch, and he was done. It look like he gave up. It was just an atrocious performance on his part.”
“You know the difference between a fighter that’s calm, cool, collected, and ready for the pressure, and it’s out-weighed by somebody that’s clearly in over their head,” Smith said. “When you look at ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, that was not a guy that was prepared to fight tonight. We knew Conor was going to be prepared. We knew Conor was going to be ready. We wondered whether or not he would take him out early. Obviously as the fight goes on, ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone is the bigger, stronger guy – supposedly. For him to be hurt in 15 seconds, get away from the clinch, and still just let Conor right back at him? Come on. You’re smarter than that, except for tonight.”
Of course, those of us who have watched the sport for long enough understand that you can be as prepared as possible and still get blitzed in 10 seconds, knocked out by the first punch or injured off the first scramble. Anything can — and often does — happen in the cage. Cerrone is a great fighter, but McGregor is simply on another level. He reminded everyone on Saturday what all the hype was about during his first run, but rather than acknowledge McGregor’s speed and power and unorthodox attacks in the clinch, Smith instead denigrates McGregor’s opponent, one of the toughest journeymen in the sport.
Smith and “Cowboy” got into it a bit in the week leading up to the fight, with Smith asking a bunch of dismissive and antagonistic questions throughout an ESPN interview that had Cerrone rolling his eyes midway through. So it’s not surprising that the crazy amount of disrespect shown to Cerrone would continue after he lost. As I mentioned earlier, this is Smith’s bread and butter. He’s the guy who voices the ignorant questions and narratives of the sedentary masses still watching ESPN at 1:30 a.m. because they’re too lazy to get up and change the channel.
I almost hate even putting the spotlight on his latest sports desk flappy head stupidity because it’s exactly the kind of engagement that will convince ESPN it needs to trot him out more often for other UFC fights. But, hopefully this article serves a small but important role in clearly labeling him as the loudmouth jackass he is so no one gets it twisted: Stephen A. Smith should not be taken seriously when it comes to MMA commentary ... at all.
For complete UFC 246 results, including play-by-play updates from last night, click here. To check out the latest and greatest UFC 246: “McGregor vs. Cerrone” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.