The UFC 286 main event between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman was not without controversy, particularly when it came to the commentary from former fighter Michael Bisping. Justin Gaethje in particular took issue with what he felt was clear bias towards Edwards and against Usman from Bisping as the fight played out.
However, play-by-play commentator Jon Anik has robustly defended Bisping, arguing that the former middleweight champion was entirely impartial in his commentary on the fight. Anik, who co-commentated with Bisping for the main event, argued on Twitter that his colleague had “zero agenda nor any bias when calling fights.” He added that Bisping may in fact have a closer relationship to Usman than he does to Edwards, and was not showing favouritism.
Anik also spoke out about the challenges that come with the job of providing live commentary for a major sporting event. “The job of MMA commentator is not as hard as that of fighter, judge, or referee, but it’s hard,” he said. “We are judged on every utterance over eight plus hours and certainly there are things we’d love to take back.” He acknowledged that controversies may arise, but also suggested that negative critiques might be better put to use as constructive criticism.
Bisping has faced criticism before in his role as commentator for the UFC, and Gaethje was not the only one to feel as though the Brit had not been completely even-handed during the fight. However, Bisping himself has said he welcomes such feedback and takes it into consideration for future bouts. The 2023 meeting of Adesanya and Whittaker was another bout where Bisping faced allegations of bias, but he argued at the time that his deep knowledge of the sport as well as its personal and emotional elements meant that he could provide fiercely honest commentary.
Commentary at sporting events is almost always going to face controversy, particularly when events are as high-stakes as a main event of a UFC night. With critics on all sides, it isn’t easy for commentators to win, but Anik has suggested that the emphasis could be shifted to more constructive feedback rather than attacks on individual commentators. For now, at least, both Bisping and Anik can hold their heads high knowing they played their roles to the best of their ability.