“UFC 112: Invincible” was a historic event in many respects. Main event notwithstanding, what the Ultimate Fighting Championship along with their new partner Flash Entertianment pulled off, was significant not only for their own company but for the sport of mixed martial arts as a whole.
For the first time the Middle East got to witness this thing called the UFC, which is pro mixed martial arts at its highest level. And helping usher in this new era of global expansion was a young man by the name of Mohammed Al Housani. He was hired to serve as analyst and color commentator for what would be the UFC’s very first live Arabic language broadcast.
ProMMAnow.com caught up with Housani, now affectionately labeled “Mohammed Rogan”, after UFC 112 to find out how he felt about his job performance, get his opinion on Anderson Silva’s antics in the main event, and also to try and gauge how much Silva’s actions hurt the UFC’s first impression on so many potential new fans. We also wanted to know what his American counterpart, Joe Rogan, thought about his nickname and if he gave him any advice.
A special thanks goes to MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani, who talked with Mohammed prior to UFC 112, and I felt it intriguing enough a story that that I wanted to follow up with Mohammed after the event to see how things went.
Hello Mohammed, thank you very much for taking time to speak with us at ProMMAnow.com. You served as color commentator for Arabic language television in Abu Dhabi for UFC 112. Now that the event has come and gone, could you explain what the experience was like for you, knowing how big a fan you are of MMA and UFC?
It was an amazing experience and an honor to represent something I am so passionate about. I started watching in 1997 and got hooked ever since. To think I would be working for the UFC 13 years later is something that would have never crossed my mind. Fortunately, I had experience commentating Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, even though I wasn’t a commentator by profession and never had any intention of being one. My passion and love for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA, and my personal desire to spread the sport in my country and the rest of the Middle East, made me take whichever spot presented to me. The actual commentary on the show itself was quite the experience. Me and my colleague at the Orbit Showtime Network (OSN), that airs the UFC in the Middle East and North Africa, had so much responsibilities going in. We were the pioneers and the first ever Arab commentators. It was very important for me to choose my definitions of some of the moves very accurately because whatever we say during the show will certainly “stick” with the audience, since they have never seen such a thing before. I was very happy with my performance and feel we did a great job balancing the education part for the casual fans, and the technical part for the experienced, hardcore fans.
Did you get the chance to talk with Joe Rogan and if so, what was the conversation like, what kind of advice did he give you, and how much did he help you to prepare?
Yes, I did speak to Joe. He looked amused that someone all the way in the Middle East would be associated with him. There wasn’t much of a conversation though, except for some comedic interactions between us. It was Lorenzo Fertitta and later Mike Goldberg, who managed to give me some tips on how to approach this.
You were being called Mohammed “Rogan”. Did Joe Rogan like your nickname and what did he think about that?
I really don’t know if he liked it or not. He looked excited, but wouldn’t know for sure. I am sure it feels good for him since people see him as the voice of the UFC, to have other people out there compared to him. I, on the other hand, didn’t mind it at all. The only reason they called me “Mohammed Rogan” is because the UFC hired me as an analyst, and that is what Joe does in the English broadcast, so I guess my partner should be called “Ali Goldberg” (Laughs). I must admit though, I believe our commentating styles are different. The only similarities might be that we both are fans of grappling, so we tend to be really technical when it comes to the grappling. I think he, along with Bas Rutten, are the best in the business. If I can be to the Arabic crowd what they are to the English crowd, then I am succeeding with my job.
I have to ask you now, when Anderson Silva began to do his antics during his fight, what were you thinking and how did you describe it to your audience?
At the beginning, it was OK. We were talking about how he’s emulating Muhammad Ali and Arab Boxing standout, Naseem Hameed. But as the fight went on, it really felt that he was pissing off the crowd. It felt like he was showing them that he could do whatever he wanted and that he was not going to satisfy the crowd anymore because they turned on him. I have never seen such a shift in the crowd’s reaction like this before. The ground was literally shaking underneath us as the crowd were hitting their feet in unison and chanting for Maia. It was such an emotional moment, even Dana couldn’t help it and stormed off. To sum it up, it was an anti-climactic end to an otherwise successful, entertaining show. I would be curious to know how Mike and Joe felt at that particular moment. We were simply baffled and had no answer to Anderson’s actions. Only he knows why he did that. What started as showboating ended up being a case of disrespect and cockiness.
What is your personal opinion on the way Anderson Silva acted, and how much do you think it hurt the UFC’s first live presentation to so many potentially new fans in Abu Dhabi?
I think it goes against what the UFC represents. The reason Wanderlei Silva is still fighting in the UFC is because he really shows up to fight and give the fans a show. Anderson seems like he just wants to keep his title and does not care about how the crowd thinks. I think his antics really hurt the UFC’s first live presentation in terms of it ending anti-climactically, but I doubt his actions will have any effect on a future UFC show here. People still left the show feeling like they have witnessed history. But it really sucks that what Anderson did is overshadowing the HUGE title change with Frankie Edgar and the amazing performance of Mark Munoz and Kendall Grove.
Have you heard any word about what the owners of Flash Entertainment may have thought about what Anderson Silva did, as well as the whole event?
I don’t think Flash were sweating it as much as Dana and Co. did. Ultimately, it was a successful show. By the end of the show, everyone was hugging and congratulating each other on a job well done. What was done by Flash to make this show a success was simply incredible. To finish that arena in 3 weeks was simply a feat that surprised the entire world. A lot of people were doubting if it could be done. There were rumors they were going to pull the show out and take it to the UK, but Abu Dhabi surprises the world again. All of this experience has been documented and will be shown soon in a documentary by the UFC. Stay tuned to that.
What has most of the post-UFC 112 talk been like in the Abu Dhabi media? Did the event get positive reviews from the media, and what is the general feeling about the Anderson Silva fight?
The media has been great. I don’t believe there has been a country that the UFC has gotten into that was entirely acceptable of the sport. The media was covering the event on a daily basis, whether it was on TV or newspapers. Although, a lot of them have bashed Anderson for his disrespect of fellow fighter Demian Maia and the aforementioned anti-climactic end to the night. A lot of people don’t know this, but I was also doing PR work for the UFC, as I was working mainly with the Arabic media throughout the countdown to the show.
I don’t care where it is, I would love to do it again. I might not be doing it forever, but I feel that there is still a lot of education to be done in the Middle East. I doubt Afghanistan would be appropriate though, as it is a show made for the US Military. In my opinion, the UFC should really consider doing all their shows in Arabic, simply because of the number of Arabs in the world, especially the staggering percentage of 18-34 year-olds out there.
What is next for Mohammed “Rogan”, will you go back to a regular job now? If so, what is your regualr job?
Back to my job. I am a diplomat.
Thank you so much Mohammed. Hopefully the UFC will continue to work with you, and we wish you the very best. Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with our readers, or do you want to send any shout outs?
I would like to thank HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Godfather of Jiu-Jitsu in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for giving myself and thousands of people in the UAE a chance to train in the Martial Arts. What’s happening in Abu Dhabi is a dream come true for every Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts fan. From the ADCC in 1998 to the UFC in 2010, things will only get bigger and better. Believe it or not, Jiu-Jitsu is part of schools’ curriculum now, and thousands of kids are training the art everyday. Imagine the number of talent and future world champions we will be getting soon. I cannot describe in words what all of this means to me. I will not do it justice. I would also like to thank Frank Fertitta, Lorenzo Fertitta, and Dana White for making the sport what it is today, and for taking it all over the world. I would also like to thank Craig Borsari for entrusting me with the commentating job since the beginning. It really took minutes of our conversation for him to shake my hands and tell me that “you’re our man”. Of course the Arabic crew too, my colleague Ali Alawieh and our Arabic producer Ratib, along with all of the UFC staff who helped create UFC 112. Finally, I would like to thank my family and friends for all their support and words of encouragement. I hope I have made everyone proud. Thank you also to PRO MMA NOW for the interest in me and my experience with the UFC. I wish you the best and I will make sure to follow your website and look forward to some great articles and interviews from other personalities in this industry.