16 for 16: No. 8 UFC pulls credentials for Helwani after breaking news
December 25, 2016
While it may not be a pure business or legal story, the UFC expelling Ariel Helwani and two others at UFC 199 is a reflection of the unique business of the company under Dana White and the Fertittas.
This past June, Helwani was escorted out of UFC 199 prior to the end of the event along with Esther Lin and Casey Leydon. He was given a lifetime ban by the UFC as they revoked the credentials of the individuals representing MMA Fighting and SB Nation. The web site and its parent company supported the three after the incident.
The reason for the revocation was due to Helwani’s discovery that Brock Lesnar was going to return to the Octagon at July’s UFC 200. The UFC had planned to unveil this news on its own but Helwani received the confirmation. Notably, the information was confirmed from someone with the knowledge of Lesnar’s return so the question becomes why the UFC was angered with Helwani’s report and not the fact that someone had leaked this information.
Ironically, people with knowledge of the Saturday night incident did not reveal the details or break this news until Helwani could give his first-hand account on The MMA Hour on Monday. Thus, while media supported Helwani for getting the scoop on the Lesnar news, they were reluctant to break what they knew of the Helwani story because it was Helwani’s story.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the UFC reinstated Helwani, Lin and Leydon.
The incident highlights the current state of the media and the stories they cover. Jeremy Botter and Darren Rovell were threatened by the UFC (Botter with a letter from the company’s attorney) when they reported news of a UFC sale in June. While the UFC denied these allegations, we all know now that the sale was true. Currently, the news that Ronda Rousey will not be obligated to speak to the media during fight week has infuriated many. She has only given limited access to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and appeared on The Ellen Show to appease her women demo. We now have The Player’s Tribune so that athletes can convey their side of the story without a media filter. But the push-pull of media and its subjects and control of a story were highlighted with Helwani doing what journalists do and the UFC being angered that it could not control the story. These things happen in non-sports as well as we know. With the new UFC owners, we shall see how much access it will grant MMA media as opposed to its control of information and releasing it to certain outlets.