The Curious Case Of Ariel Helwani vs The UFC: Is History Repeating Itself?
Despite the amazing thrill ride that was the UFC 199 Main Event and the millions that watched, one man with full credentials to witness the event, did not. That being MMA journalist, Ariel Helwani. For those that don’t know, Helwani has been through the ups and downs of the evolution of the UFC. While attending college at the best journalism school in the country, Newhouse at Syracuse University, Helwani had needed a 3.5 GPA and he notched himself a 3.51 GPA before transferring to Newhouse.
Ariel was surrounded by students that wanted to cover of course basketball or football. Not Helwani. In 2001 he began to cover Mixed Martial Arts and at the time the UFC was recently purchased by two brother’s who came from the gambling casino racket: Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta. Helwani told himself that he wanted to be the next Stuart Scott or Rich Eisen. Two guys on ESPN that he rarely got to watch as kid growing up in Montreal. Helwani only had the privilege of watching these two lay it all out during family trips to the United States. His freshman year at Newhouse, Helwani told himself that he was going to mean as much to MMA as Stuart meant to basketball and as much as Eisen meant to football. Ten years later, Ariel Helwani became just that and maybe even more.
In 2004 he graduated from Newhouse and in 2006 Helwani started covering Mixed Martial Arts professionally under the Fanhouse banner on AOL. Now the awards that Helwani has won over the course of his 15-year career are not Oscars or even People’s Choice, but what they do is represent a guy that came from little to nothing that saw a dream and accomplished it. One of the most well documented facts of Muhammad Ali’s career was his insulting yet brotherly like relationship with Howard Cosell. What Howard Cosell provided boxing fans with at the time was pure education and full coverage of anything boxing– from interviews one-on-one with fighters, to his unique commentating skill. I would be more than willing to say the same for Helwani– not in the terms of commentating which is something that Helwani himself has never done, but Helwani was waiting in the wings to do just that.
At a time where fans of the sport were highly un-informed Helwani was always the guy giving the inside scoop. Something that led to his ridiculous and pathetic removal from UFC 199 and a lifetime ban from the UFC. There are so many unique individuals that are responsible for where the UFC is today and Ariel Helwani is one of those individuals. As a brief history lesson this is not the first time the UFC has blacklisted someone from the organization and unfortunately this will not be the last time. For example guys like Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz two fighter’s that I give the distinction along with Chuck Liddell for bringing the UFC into the mainstream. While Liddell has a six-figure salary as a talent relations executive for the company, Randy Couture isn’t allowed to attend the events, and where do we start with Tito Ortiz? The ‘Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ was Dana White’s enemy for the better part of a decade. The only reason why the relationship lasted as long as it did was that both men made each other money at a time when money hadn’t really been a factor. Tito retired after a lackluster fight with Forrest Griffin and dipped his toes in the management waters. His first client was Cyborg Santos, and because of this, Santos was robbed of entering the UFC until a few months ago. While disagreements between management and fighters is quite common much like coaches and players there are also other examples of those that helped shape the sport.
Jacob “Stitch” Duran, a cutman that worked on some of the worst cuts or bruises in UFC history was blacklisted by Dana White because of his comments on the famous UFC/Reebok contract. Burt Watson the famous UFC hype man left the sport for reasons unknown to this day. There is a recurring theme here and regardless of how massive the UFC empire has become, it has to stop. While the UFC had the vision to help create what the sport is today there are plenty of other multi-billion dollar companies looking to invest in their very own organizations. Heck, some billion dollar companies already do. Viacom estimated at a $10 billion dollar net worth owns the organization referred as to Bellator MMA and while Bellator has often been a joke in regards to the fights they create, they are a company with deep pockets, practically in the same spot the UFC was in 10-12 years ago- marketing fighters based on their past history. Unfortunately, it’s the SAME fighters that the UFC did this with guys I call retreads. Bellator does have pockets, deep enough to acquire big time talent from the UFC. While we won’t see Conor McGregor leave the UFC to join Bellator who’s to say in 10-20 years we won’t see a guy test his value much like in the other major professional sports leagues. Let’s face it, this sport is evolving every single minute of every single day. This sport does not have an off-season for anybody involved whether that be the fighters, the owners, and the fans. In reality, if the UFC wants to reside, they have to respect the people along the way that helped build the sport into what it is and it must go beyond Dana White and the Fertitta’s. Blacklisting a guy like Ariel Helwani who has given his life to covering the sport and realistically is the only MMA journalist with the respect of the fighters themselves should be able to continue to do what he does best. For whatever reason the UFC has eased him out the door for the better part of a year firing Helwani from Fox Sports for reporting stories that were told by his network to report.
In this case, the Brock Lesnar story was leaked to him by those within the UFC, whoever that may be that’s not the point. This is 2016, if the UFC wanted Lesnar’s return to stay a secret they shouldn’t have told anyone. So don’t shoot the guys career in the foot for your very own mistake. When I had first heard this story it reminded me of the scene in The Social Network where Andrew Garfield told Jessie Eisenburg/Mark Zuckerberg that he was coming for everything. Helwani should do the same. Whether that be in a lawsuit or going fully public from his doing a tell-all interview in a timeline of his day 1 career with the UFC to the final day walking out of UFC 199 with two colleagues like three teenagers kicked out of a concert for fighting. As much as I love the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and the leading organization in the world. This is not right. It’s that simple and Dana White will continue to do what Dana wants to do. Chuck Liddell will be at every UFC event while Randy Couture is not, Stitch will be rubbing Vaseline on Canelo Alvarez , Tito will be fighting in Bellator while managing the now one-time UFC fighter Cyborg Santos. Hopefully Ariel Helwani can comeback and have the right to do what he deserves to do and if not, he can help build another company. Maybe that is the best option for him, Dana White can wonder what if I didn’t tell Ariel to head to Bellator? Maybe it wouldn’t have opened up the media door that Bellator had been dying for to be open. Maybe that is Helwani’s legacy— to show that monopoly is not just a board game and that the MMA world is a monopoly and the UFC is running it. This will continue unfortunately as long as Dana White thinks it’s right. As an aspiring journalist myself, my comments in the matter will probably be frowned upon in a business sense, but I would rather do what is right and let it be known that without Ariel Helwani, the MMA is not MMA and the UFC is not the UFC. Free Helwani. Do what is right.
UPDATE: Ariel Helwani has credential ban lifted by the UFC. While this is a positive I don’t the end in sight for situations much like this. Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta had their very own power trip of the week and in cases like this whether the matter is resolved or not the public eye never forgetshttps://www.myfantasysportstalk.com/the-curious-case-of-ariel-helwani-vs-the-ufc-is-history-repeating-itself/https://i0.wp.com/www.myfantasysportstalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/a-35.jpg?fit=1024%2C576&ssl=1https://i0.wp.com/www.myfantasysportstalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/a-35.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1MMARecent Postsariel helwani,MMADespite the amazing thrill ride that was the UFC 199 Main Event and the millions that watched, one man with full credentials to witness the event, did not. That being MMA journalist, Ariel Helwani. For those that don't know, Helwani has been through the ups and downs of the evolution of...Ryan ThomasRyan Thomasbeantownboy92@yahoo.comContributorMyFantasySportsTalk