So by now I think everyone in mixed martial arts (MMA) is familiar with Stephen A. Smith and his general modus operandi with ESPN: say a bunch of outrageous stuff, generate headlines, ???, profit! He brought his particular brand of pontification to our sport following UFC 246 and as you’d expect from someone with no background in MMA, his hot takes were pretty surface deep and highly insulting to Donald Cerrone following his 40-second loss to Conor McGregor.
If Dana White thought all the future McGregor matchmaking being done was extremely disrespectful to “Cowboy,” this was some next level stuff.
And because this isn’t your typical stick and ball sport, some people take it more seriously than others. Joe Rogan spent a good 20 minutes talking to UFC and Bellator vet Josh Thomson about it and basically said you can’t come into a sport where people are putting their bodies on the line and spout off this kind of ignorant garbage.
Conor McGregor backed him up on this stance, which led to the latest response back from Stephen A. Smith.
Sir, mich respect to the great @TheNotoriousMMA. My recollection on what I said is “That’s the way it looked.” Cowboy Cerrone is a perennial top-10 fighter. Much respect to him for the lengthy career he has had. Wishing him nothing but the best. But I don’t think it’s unfair to..— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 26, 2020
say that more than 40-seconds was expected from as tough of an SOB as he is, @TheNotoriousMMA. Nor do I think it’s wrong to assume that there’s no way that’s 40-second fight would take place w/ you vs Nurmegamedov or Masvidal. We expected more than what we got. Props to YOU for..— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 26, 2020
that. But to know how tough Cowboy is, lots of fans like myself expected more and I don’t think @joerogan is right to question my knowledge about a fight just because I wasn’t satisfied with what I saw. I said what I said and I meant it. It’s possible to do that and still have...— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 26, 2020
Tremendous respect for you @TheNotoriousMMA, along with @joerogan. Both of you are fantastic for the @UFC. I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much without the both of you. I wish you both prosperity in the future. But we clearly disagree about Cowboy’s performance on Jan.18.#RESPECT— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 26, 2020
So of course, no apology and not even much of a walking back, although Smith did leave out a lot of his lazy “can’t hack it under the bright lights” arguments and how he was “quite disgusted” with Cerrone’s performance. We’re still waiting on Smith to take a few Conor McGregor shoulders to the nose and eye socket and see how well he performs following that. Maybe then we’d take him seriously when he said anything about mixed martial arts.
For now, we’ll just have to take solace in watching him get reamed by some of the top names in the sport. Whether that makes it more or less likely for ESPN to keep inflicting him on us remains to be seen.