Controversy as UFC icon flouts social-distancing rules

Joe Rogan was called out for shaking hands with fighters at UFC 249.
Joe Rogan's decision to shake hands with the fighters raised a fair few eyebrows. Pic: Getty

The original plan for UFC 249 was for Joe Rogan to stay out of the Octagon.

So when the iconic UFC commentator took his normal post-fight stance in the cage and conducted literal hands-on interviews, people noticed.

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Not only was Rogan in the Octagon, but he regularly broke one of the key safety rules around the COVID-19 pandemic by repeatedly shaking hands with fighters.

He shook hands in the prelims with Ryan Spann.

He shook the bloodied hand of interim lightweight champ Justin Gaethje after his stunning TKO of Tony Ferguson in the main event.

He appeared to shake hands with every fighter he spoke with at the event in Florida.

Viewers took to social media to express their disbelief with what was happening.

Rogan’s decision to shake hands raised the obvious question as to why he’d taken that stance.

Was it a statement in support of UFC?

The immediate answer is that everybody in the building had been tested for COVID-19, so the assumption is that there’s no way anybody inside was infected.

So was it a stance of defiance by Rogan as UFC has faced a barrage of criticism for even hosting an event as the coronavirus continues to spread and kill in the United States?

A calculated decision to shake hands would reflect the behavior of his boss Dana White, who publicly flouted safety protocols in the preparation for the event, only to see a fight canceled after a fighter tested positive.

As parts of the country open up while COVID-19 maintains a firm foothold in the United States, some have taken to flouting common-sense safety measures as a badge of honor, a form of virtue signaling for the unvirtuous.

Rogan is extra careful on his podcast

Even if Rogan was confident that there was no COVID-19 in the building, why make a concerted effort to publicly use a greeting that’s believed by many to have no place in the post-COVID-19 world? It doesn’t set a great example, even while acknowledging that the fighters had been tested.

Rogan’s not among the COVID-19 deniers. In fact, he made headlines in April for paying for all the guests on his podcast to undergo testing. He said at the end of Saturday’s broadcast that he’s getting tested again tomorrow.

For now, his decision remains a mystery. Was he making a statement? Or were his handshakes simply a matter of old habits dying hard?