Watching Joe Rogan train raises the question: Why doesn’t he fight instead of just talk about fighting?
Despite being 44, the 5’8″, 190-pound Ultimate Fighting Championship color man looks as trim and spry as many of mixed martial arts’ best athletes. And Rogan has a legit martial arts background. A four-time Massachusetts taekwondo champion while in his teens and early 20s, Rogan has also trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai for more than a decade. There’s little doubt he could mess you up if he needed to, but the self-effacing Rogan laughs it off. “People ask me, ‘Why don’t you fight professionally?’” he says. “And I say, ‘Why —so I can get my ass kicked?’”
While martial arts have always been central to Rogan’s life, it’s his sense of humor and wit that brought him to the big time. A stand-up comic who got his big break on the hit NBC sitcom NewsRadio in the mid-’90s, he most famously went on to host the reality show Fear Factor —which makes its comeback to NBC this winter. Still, it’s fighting that helps Rogan feel at the top of his game. “I see martial arts as moving forms of meditation,” he says. “When you’re sparring or drilling techniques, you can’t think of anything else. All your bullshit goes to the back of your head. Because if it doesn’t, you’re going to get fucked up.”
The level of concentration one needs to prevent having his head caved in is not only enlightening to Rogan. He also believes it’s essential to his humanity. “No matter how civilized we are and how much society has curbed violent behavior,” he says, “human beings still have the same genes they had 10,000 years ago. Our bodies are designed to have a certain amount of physical stress and violence in them. We’re designed to run from jaguars and fight to defend our territory. We’re hardwired with all this shit that you really can’t deny if you want to be a balanced human being.”
To truly be in control of yourself, he says, you have to address the need to strike and be struck. Keeping his edge and being honest with himself is key to Rogan’s outlook. Acting, he says, clashes with this philosophy. “The two things I understand best are stand-up comedy and martial arts. And those things require an ultimate grasp of the truth. You have to be objective about your skills and abilities to compete in both. But acting is a make-believe world. [Actors] all want an incredible amount of attention, and they all take themselves so seriously.”
In fact, Rogan says his former NewsRadio castmate Andy Dick (renowned for his tabloid-level bad behavior) is representative of the type of actor who quelled Rogan’s desire to perform and drove him to Fear Factor. “[Actors] talk about their work as if they’re saving lives. I’m like, ‘My God, we’re doing pretend!’” Another actor Rogan took issue with was Wesley Snipes. When the government was investigating Snipes for tax evasion, the actor challenged Rogan to a cage fight to air on TV.
According to Rogan, Snipes was looking for a quick payday to alleviate his IRS debt and picked the wrong celebrity to call out. Rogan trained religiously for five months in preparation for the bout but says Snipes backed out shortly before fight night.
“I think when he researched it and found out I’d been doing martial arts my whole life, he realized I was going to choke the shit out of him,” Rogan says. “If I’d fought Wesley Snipes, I was 99.9% convinced all I had to do was grab that guy and choke the fucking life out of him.”
These days, to keep his body conditioned for the rigors of the ring (Rogan has an Octagon in his garage, shown here, where he spars with buddies), he trains mainly with kettlebells. His routine, adapted from the teachings of kettlebell gurus Mark Cheng and Steve Maxwell, is so effective, he says, that he’s stronger than ever —even on conventional gym lifts. Rogan can do 40 dips, “which I could never do before,” he says. “And I can still bench 315.”
Most of his martial arts training is done with Brazilian jiu-jitsu legends Jean-Jacques Machado and Eddie Bravo in Los Angeles. Rogan hopes to receive his black belt soon. He also trains kickboxing with former world champion Rob Kamen. “I think a lot of how people look at things is based on the stress level they’re at,” he says. “Sometimes you’ll have a day when fucking everything is going nuts, someone will say something to you, and you’ll go, ‘What!?’ But you would never do that ordinarily. Then other days you’ll be in the happiest mood ever, everything is going great, and you just got your dick sucked. Then if someone said the same thing to you, you’d be so much calmer about it. Training and martial arts have eliminated a lot of that for me.”
Take some advice from a guy who breaks down fights and hecklers for a living. Hitting will take the edge off. See Joe Rogan’s training gallery here.