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UFC 249’s Joe Rogan does postfight interviews in Octagon
8:15 PM ET
  • Marc RaimondiESPN Staff Writer

UFC 249 color commentator Joe Rogan interviewed fighters postfight in the Octagon on Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida, a departure from UFC’s previously stated protocol in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The card, which took place in front of no fans at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, kicked off with a preliminary bout between light heavyweights Sam Alvey and Ryan Spann. After Spann’s split decision win, he was interviewed in the Octagon by Rogan.

Rogan conducted Octagon interviews in the same style immediately after the second and third fights as well. He did not do one with Carla Esparza and Aleksei Oleinik, the winners of the fourth and fifth fights, respectively, but returned to interview Anthony Pettis in the cage after he won the sixth fight, the last one on the preliminary card.

Rogan continued interviewing winning fighters during the main card.

In his interview after the main event, Rogan congratulated new UFC interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje and extended his hand out for a shake. Gaethje hesitated and said something to Rogan, who replied, “I don’t care,” before the two shook hands.

When asked during an appearance on SportsCenter on ESPN why he chose to interview fighters directly, Rogan said he didn’t want his interactions to be “impersonal.”

“It didn’t make any sense to me if everybody’s been tested and everybody’s clean, no one has the disease,” Rogan said about the UFC’s interview protocol. “I’ve been tested, they’ve been tested. I want to see them. When I’m doing an interview with a fighter, after a spectacular performance like Justin Gaethje’s fight, I want to look him in the eye. I don’t want it to be some impersonal thing where he’s 100 feet away from me.”

Earlier in the week, Craig Borsari, UFC’s executive vice president of operations and production, told ESPN that no postfight Octagon interviews would take place at UFC 249. The plan as of Tuesday was the winning fighter would be escorted from the cage after the bout to an isolated area where they would be given a sanitized headset for a remote interview with Rogan.

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Ryan Spann isn’t thrilled with his performance despite the win, and Joe Rogan can’t break an old habit by announcing his name to a vacant crowd.

On Saturday, Rogan conducted the interview next to Spann inside the cage and a gloveless Rogan shook Spann’s hand. Outside the Octagon, many but not all personnel were wearing protective masks. Octagon announcer Bruce Buffer was wearing a mask cageside and removing it to read introductions and results while inside the Octagon.

Rogan and the two other members of the UFC broadcast team, Jon Anik and Daniel Cormier, were each seated at separate tables away from one another Saturday night.

“Obviously, there’s the whole social distancing and keeping people away from each other and everything,” UFC president Dana White said at Saturday’s postfight news conference. “Everybody here was tested. People that are still here, we know are negative.

“I don’t know. We’re still figuring this whole thing out. This was the first one, it was a success. Wednesday will be better. Saturday will be better than that. So on and so forth.”

Borsari said Tuesday that everyone involved in the event would be tested for COVID-19. On Friday, the UFC announced that Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza was pulled from his scheduled fight against Uriah Hall at UFC 249 after he tested positive for the coronavirus. Two of Souza’s corner people also tested positive for COVID-19. The three were removed from the hotel and would be “self-isolating off premises,” per a UFC statement.

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