His watch reads 8:23 a.m., but it’s really 5:13 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. Because, despite his departure from Bristol, Connecticut to Los Angeles, the man furiously writing out his thoughts—his hot takes—prefers to live his life like he’s still on the East Coast. And 10 minutes ahead of everybody else. No laptop in front of him, no looking in the mirror and reciting a bunch of lines. Sitting in a windowless dressing room at the Fox Studios, this is Skip Bayless in the final stages of “prepping his brains out” before the cameras are live.

He drops the blue pen, wraps his hands around his head, biceps bulging out of his gray T-shirt, and thinks for a minute. Bayless, the co-star of Fox Sports 1’s live debate show Undisputed and arguably the most polarizing talking head in sports, is liable to say something that will set off a huge swath of sports fans when it’s his turn to talk in an hour and 17 minutes. But if you think he’s just stirring things up for the hell of it, while collecting a princely sum of money (reportedly $5.5 million a year), he’d like you to know that he’s just a man of convictions—strong ones—who calls it like he sees it. “You never contrive the debate,” he insists.  

Which is something many accuse him of doing, considering how passionate and oftentimes outrageous his opinions can be. Whether it’s his incessant criticism of LeBron James, or his deeply held beliefs in the abilities of Tim Tebow as an NFL quarterback, the Skip Bayless on TV five days a week, who first gained notoriety at ESPN before taking his talents to Fox Sports last year, says it’s always genuine. “I just speak from my heart; I just get to truth telling,” says Bayless. “And I have consistently been correct on all these outrageous takes.”

What Bayless calls “truth telling” others might call “trolling.” But sitting in his chair on the set of his show Undisputed, the 65-year-old believes everything he’s about to say and is supremely confident he has “never lost a debate.” The man who called LeBron’s chasedown block in the 2016 NBA Finals “overrated” and Dak Prescott a can’t-miss QB after watching three preseason games swears he isn’t slinging a bunch of bullshit.

“Skip is 1,000 percent authentic—what you see is what you get,” says Shannon Sharpe, the retired NFL Hall of Fame tight end who is now Bayless’s Undisputed co-star. “When he believes something, you can’t talk him off the ledge. And when I realized you couldn’t talk him off the ledge, I was like, I’ma leave his ass up there.”

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