The UFC apparently had such an extreme reaction to Ariel Helwani breaking the Brock Lesnar story on Saturday because they had already warned him against scooping them.
UFC commentator Joe Rogan who, keep in mind is EMPLOYED by the UFC, shared some insight on Tuesday of what led to the UFC’s reaction to the Lesnar story, which resulted in them banning Helwani and his crew (a move that was later reversed).
As we have heard, the UFC believed Ariel had a mole and wanted to find out who it was. They were upset he had broken news of the Conor McGregor-Nate Diaz rematch earlier on Saturday and talked to him about it.
“From what I understand, the conversation with him was ‘don’t do this, because only a handful of people know this information. So we’re going to fire a bunch of people, and you’re going to ruin peoples’ lives.’ This is what I was told was a conversation they had with him. After that conversation, he leaked the Brock Lesnar stuff,” Rogan said on his show.
Rogan also says that they know the information did not come from Brock’s side, leading them to conclude the leaks came from within their organization.
Rogan also thinks Helwani is wrong to scoop the UFC if the news is coming out anyway because he’s stealing their spotlight.
It’s truly unbelievable how wrong Rogan is about this, but his position is understandable because he is one of the most prominent faces of the UFC and paid by the organization. Helwani has no obligation to the UFC. OF COURSE he is trying to steal the spotlight; he’s trying to build his name and gain notoriety through reporting.
And why does it matter to report information before others? The world is all about information and learning things first. There are limitless examples of how having information first is beneficial to consumers and fans. Not only is it cool to brag to friends that you know things they don’t, but there are practical gains, such as buying tickets or hotel rooms before the masses catch on and prices go up. The argument that there is no reason for him to scoop news that is already coming out is flatly incorrect and shows no understanding of what a reporter does.
The UFC just wants to control all aspects of their business and they do not know how to operate when they lose control. They try to bully and intimidate others, as evidenced by their talk with Helwani in which they warned him against reporting news. That’s also evidenced by them saying they would fire employees. The UFC management just runs in unfair ways and this is a classic example of it.
Their “side” of the story isn’t much of a side.
UPDATE: Helwani told “Tiki and Tierney Show” on CBS Sports Radio that the story from Rogan is false.
“That is 1,000 percent inaccurate. No one at the UFC ever told me that jobs would be lost if I reported news. That’s kind of a ludicrous thing to say to anyone. And if I’m being honest, I’m a little disappointed that he put that out there without even talking to me. He got that from Dana White. He’s a close friend of Dana White’s, and Dana and some other people at the UFC believe there’s a mole at the company feeding me information. That is also 1,000 percent inaccurate. There is no mole. There is no singular person that I planted within the company to give me news. Also a ludicrous idea”
Ariel Helwani poured out his heart and shared a lot of personal information during Monday’s edition of “The MMA Hour” — his weekly show. At one point he even referenced an event that got “physical” in 2014.
Though Helwani declined to go into specifics about the incident, MMA insider Front Row Brian elaborated on Twitter. He said the allusion by Helwani was to an actual assault on the reporter by a UFC security guard who allegedly was one of Dana White’s bodyguards.
Here’s what Helwani said about the matter:
“Around that time frame, something else happened. That’s the one thing I’m going to skip over for now. That’s the one thing I don’t want to get into. I just don’t feel comfortable. I will say this though — it got physical. And that was hard,” said Helwani, vaguely alluding to some sort of incident.
Here’s what Front Row Brian says happened.
What Ariel is referencing when he said “it got physical” …..
Following a conversation with the editorial team at SB Nation, UFC will not prevent MMAFighting.com from receiving media credentials to cover live UFC events. We respect the role the media plays in our sport and beyond, including MMAFighting’s ability to report news. However, in our opinion, we believe the recurring tactics used by its lead reporter extended beyond the purpose of journalism. We feel confident our position has now been adequately communicated to the SB Nation editorial team.
UFC’s goal as the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion is to cultivate interest in its world-class athletes and events, and deliver for the fans. We will continue to introduce this sport and its athletes to new fans across the world, and we will do so by working alongside media across all platforms.
The UFC made the statement to essentially announce they were wrong in taking such extreme measures. Yet in their statement they complain about the lead reporter (Ariel Helwani) and his “tactics.”
What this comes down to is the UFC is upset Helwani keeps breaking major fight news before the company wants it public and not in the matter they want it disseminated. On Saturday alone, Helwani beat the UFC to its announcements about Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz’s rematch for UFC 202, and more importantly, about Brock Lesnar’s return to the UFC.
The UFC has likely arranged deals with ESPN and other outlets about providing them with exclusive news and scoops, so they are angered when reporters spoil it. But that is just part of what happens when you run a major sports league that is covered by the media; some will get scoops and spoil news announcements as Helwani has done. He doesn’t need the UFC’s permission to report news if he has it; he is wholly within his right as a report to report it. The UFC needs to adjust to that reality, but they are unwilling to because they are used to controlling the message and bullying/intimidating reporters.
Since Helwani and two other members of MMA Fighting’s team were kicked out of the UFC 199 event in Inglewood prior to the main event, it has become publicized that the UFC has long banned different reporters or outlets. One such reporter is Josh Gross, who was formerly of Sherdog and then worked for ESPN. He shared some information on what led to his ban by the UFC.
With this incident being so high-profile since it involved Helwani, the public pressure forced the UFC to cave and change its behavior. Hopefully there will continue to be more pressure applied to them so they act in more reasonable manners in the future.
Ariel Helwani’s biggest crime was being too good of a reporter, it seems.
Hours after breaking major UFC news Saturday night, MMAFighting.com’s Helwani said on Twitter that he was escorted out of the UFC 199 event in Inglewood, Calif. and told he was banned for life by the organization (you can read the tweets here). The move was done by the UFC apparently out of frustration over Helwani breaking news of big stories, spoiling the UFC’s planned announcements.
“I was brought to the back by UFC [public relations] and told by Dana White that I had to leave the arena,” Helwani told Yahoo Sports. “Dana mentioned that from what I recalled that Brock Lesnar was upset the news was released early and that this could have ruined their deal.
“He repeatedly said, ‘Go cover Bellator. We don’t want you here.’ … I said, ‘What did I do wrong?’ He said, ‘You’re too negative.’”
Helwani also told Yahoo that he had at least two sources on both stories. He says the UFC suspects he has a “mole” inside the company feeding him information, which has them angered.
The UFC has long been criticized for being so strict and controlling with some of its policies. If they do not like something a reporter writes or says, they will revoke his/her credentials. It’s a petty and short-sighted response that will only anger fans and turn them off from the company.
Worst of all, banning Helwani and trying to intimidate reporters will not solve the problem for the UFC; Helwani will still be able to report news and break stories without having credentials. Heck, this whole incident may drive him to work even harder to break news/continue spoiling UFC announcements, which would end up backfiring on them.
The UFC’s habit of bullying reporters and controlling the news took a new twist on Saturday night when MMA reporter Ariel Helwani says he was kicked out of UFC 199 and banned for life.
Helwani tweeted the news of his removal from the show in Inglewood, Calif. at a little after 10 p.m. PT Saturday night just before the main event at UFC 199. The veteran MMA reporter had broken news hours earlier that the UFC was close to a deal with Brock Lesnar to fight at UFC 200. He beat the UFC on the news, as the organization made it public when they included Lesnar in their UFC 200 promo they aired later in the evening. He also tweeted about potential opponents for Lesnar, which may be a sensitive topic because the organization reportedly is not planning to release until Monday.
Here’s what Helwani tweeted about being removed and having his credential taken away:
I was escorted out of the building by Zuffa staff before the main event. Credential taken away, too. Didn't see Bisping realize his dream.
The UFC has a long, concerning history of banning/kicking out reporters who report things they do not like. If you write negatively about Dana White or his personal life or talk about scandals within the organization, they will ban you. They rule with an iron fist, so to speak.
“I’m not saying you don’t have a job to report, but in this case [with Helwani], the professional standards are to reach out [to the UFC] for comment on a story you’re about to report, even if you get a no-comment,” Sholler said.
Helwani was fired by FOX in March supposedly again because the UFC was unhappy/uncomfortable with some of his reporting, such as encouraging fighters to explore free agency.
Helwani is not in their pocket nor should he be; he’s a reporter with a job to report. The UFC needs to become more professional and stop essentially violating the first amendment by silencing/punishing anyone who does not act like a perfect cheerleader for them.
Rampage Jackson sat ringside for the UFC on Versus 4 Sunday night and provided some analysis on TV afterwards. After breaking down the win by his training buddy Cheick Kongo, Rampage was asked about his rumored upcoming fight with Jon Jones. That’s when he rekindled his issues with reporter Ariel Helwani. Check out the video:
Rampage is frequently a character full of personality during interviews and he often crosses the line. He got into it with Helwani during a pre-UFC 130 interview after being upset with the way a previous radio interview went between them. The guy may be entertaining because of his spontaneous and wacky personality, but he needs to cool it with Helwani.