One of the biggest stories in the lead up to UFC 271 was the absence of Joe Rogan. Rogan was replaced late during media week with former middleweight champion Michael Bisping tapped as a replacement.
Rogan had been weathering one media storm after another. First there was the Neil Young ultimatum. Spotify hadn’t buckled at that point, but Rogan wanted to address the mainstream media narrative he was facing. In a video response Rogan insisted that he will try to do better and present both sides of the discussion when it comes to the pandemic.
But once a response to an online controversy was published – the blood was in the water. At this point a lobby firm exposed by Portnoy and Saagar Enjeti took over the narrative. In order to build on the Joe Rogan controversy they unearthed a years old clip of Rogan uttering the racial slur. The compilation features Rogan saying the slur dozens of times. Rogan did so in context for the most part – but it was too late. The headlines were starting to add up. This prompted Rogan to release a second statement and issue a public apology.
At this point UFC 271 was coming to a head – with the action booked for the following weekend. And of course, the press was dying to know what happened. UFC is infamously anti woke employing a number of controversial athletes in addition to not demanding athletes get vaccinated. So the rumor mill was abuzz – was it UFC that backed away from Rogan? Was it their corporate overlords ESPN (and Disney by proxy)? Or was it Rogan himself that opted to stay out of the limelight.
At the now infamous press conference Dana White was asked about Rogan’s absence – but White didn’t get to respond. The question was hijacked by Nigerian born Adesanya who stood up for Rogan in a display that reportedly brought tears to Rogan’s eyes. Adesanya responded:
“You can’t control the man. He’s got the biggest platform in the world right now. That’s my n*gga Joe Rogan.”
Adesanya later recounted how this iconic moment came to be:
“I saved Dana’s ass by the way. (The guy) was trying to set Dana up,” Adesanya told Andrew Schulz on Flagrant2. “I didn’t mean to. I was just like, ‘This motherf*cker.’ Because first off, I know Rogan. His (response to Neil Young) … when he made that video, I was kind of like, man, he handled that really nicely, told his Neil Young story, and he wasn’t even mad. That’s how you handle that. When (the N-word) video came out, yeah, he was wrong. He shouldn’t have said that. And he said ‘I’m sorry.’ That was the most sincere (apology), not scripted-Hollywood-my-manager-wrote-this-down-for-me-to-apologize. What more do you want? It’s just this f*cking culture of just like, ‘No, we’re gonna hold you to your past.’ That’s how many years ago.”