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UFC co-founder explains why Joe Rogan was hired back in 1997: ‘It was his ability to handle hecklers’

UFC 230 Weigh-ins Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Joe Rogan has been a part of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for well over 20 years and he’s become one of the most recognizable voices in sports in the process.

Rogan, who divides his time between commentary, comedy, and world-class podcasting, is one of the most popular names in all of combat sports. The 53-year-old has called some of the most important fights in UFC history and has grown his overall brand into a $100 million entity.

Most fight fans and sports people know who Rogan is and appreciate his contributions to the sport of MMA over the years. After all, few people can explain a kimura attempt one moment and then a legendary ice spill the next. He’s a unique mind and voice in MMA and one that will be a part of UFC for as long as he wants.

But how exactly did Rogan even get started in UFC? He did have a background in television and kickboxing prior to his UFC tenure, but what stood out the most in the eyes of the promotion?

Look no further. UFC co-founder, Campbell McLaren, who is currently the CEO for Combate Americas, recently spoke to MMA on Sirius XM about Rogan’s initial hire.

“Joe came in at UFC 11. Even by [UFC] 11, we still didn’t have a grip on things. It was so unpredictable. We would run out of fighters. We were still doing the tournaments, and guys would get hurt, and you couldn’t predict anything. We had no idea what was going to happen.

“I had a background in comedy, and I knew a comedian that could handle hecklers would be very ready for the UFC—for the Ultimate fighting Championship—because they could handle it. I could go ‘Joe, we’re running late, you’ve got to talk to them for five more minutes, tell this guy to shut up.’ And Joe, I believe he’d had a couple of professional kickboxing bouts, he had that Boston tough guy thing. He has was quick on his feet, he had a good sense of humor, and boy, did he drink the Kool-Aid.

“He came in, and he was very good at making it look like what was happening was not a disaster about to really spin out of control. It was his ability to handle hecklers as much as anything, and thinking on [his] feet, going with the flow, because you couldn’t map out what was going to happen back then. It was really tough back then, and he was such a great addition. I think Joe’s one of the best announcers in sports. He’s certainly the best podcaster.”

Rogan has reduced his UFC commentary over the years to domestic pay-per-view (PPV) cards only. That is certainly understandable as the promotion continues to create more events each year. Rogan simply can’t keep up with the time and travel needed to call every fight. Instead, he’s been spending more time on his standup and world-renowned podcast.

Rogan had hinted at possibly walking away from UFC a few years ago, but has since changed his mind. He remains a significant contributor to UFC and its growing success in mainstream America.