UFC 199 was filled with monumental moments. Michael Bisping culminated his ten-year run in the company by becoming the UFC Middleweight Champion knocking out Luke Rockhold. Dan Henderson, 45 years young, won via knockout over Hector Lombard.
They also released a huge promo for UFC 200, which featured the reveal of Brock Lesnar. The former heavyweight champion will return to fight Mark Hunt at UFC 200 on July 9.
However, the biggest news was related to Lesnar but not directly about him.
On June 4, Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting reported Lesnar and the UFC were in talks for the former champion to return. Unfortunately, that cost him his credentials.
Helwani didn’t waste time detailing the events. He spoke to Dan Patrick about his ordeal and revealed an ugly truth.
According to Helwani, he had problems with the UFC before. Helwani was employed for nearly five years at FOX Sports only to be removed when the UFC arrived.
The UFC released a statement through spokesperson Dave Sholler, saying the UFC prefers having journalists speak to them before reporting the news. UFC President Dana White stated on TMZ Sports that Helwani could get a ticket for UFC 200, but he won’t have a credential.
In other words, journalism lost (in the UFC’s mind, apparently). You can’t report on the news on deals whether they happen or they fall through. That’s the unintentional message the UFC brass is telling us. Maybe, it is intentional.
The UFC clearly wants to control and monetize their news cycle. But it doesn’t become news. It turns into press releases.
Now the question is, why is this a big deal? This is more than just journalism but free press. Censorship is running abound in the UFC due to them responding to Helwani’s actions.
What’s unsettling is why Helwani was banned. There’s no clear, unethical reason revealed to explain why Helwani received the lifetime ban.
The UFC doesn’t look good during this. They needed to have momentum to sell UFC 200, which is a historic card in the history of their company.
And yet, we’re discussing a seemingly personal vendetta turn ugly over the right to report news. Keep in mind this would be the equivalent of a reporter being removed from covering the news. Imagine if a baseball writer gets banned for doing nothing wrong, or a journalist banned from The White House because of their responsibility.
We’re in dangerous ground all due to a personal vendetta. It’s very clear that Ariel Helwani and the UFC brass do not get along. Perhaps we’ll never know the underlying issue, but the fact remains clear.
The UFC is wrong; Helwani only did the job required for him to do the right way. If he did so under unethical methods, then that must be known. Otherwise, the UFC set the wrong precedent for reporters covering the sports world.
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Update (6/7/2016): According to the Bleacher Report, Ariel Helwani’s press credential has been reinstated by the UFC. The organization still maintains Helwani was in the wrong in this situation.
It appears more will come to light as the story progresses. However, Helwani made his voice heard and got his credential back. He also appeared on The Rich Eisen Show and went more in-depth with his struggle at the time.
Welcome back, Ariel Helwani. Keep doing what you do best: report.