The news that Brock Lensar was returning to the UFC for one match was not originally revealed by the UFC. Instead, MMA reporter Ariel Helwani broke the news and learned a valuable lesson after the fact. Dana White and the UFC do not like to be one-upped. After doing his job and breaking the news when he learned of it, Dana White informed Ariel Helwani that he was banned from covering the UFC for life and kicked out of UFC 199.
According to Bleacher Report, Helwani spoke with Sports Illustrated via email about the event and what happened. In an interesting comment, it sounds like White kicked out Ariel and banned him from covering the UFC for life because of what he called “professional courtesy” when it came to the Brock Lesnar news.
“They said I should have had the ‘professional courtesy’ to clear the news with them before reporting the news. I had confirmed it with multiple sources and it ended up being right. They confirmed it on the broadcast around 3 hours after I reported it.”
Of course, this is an interesting comment by Ariel if it is true. This makes it sound like the UFC wants journalists to answer to them when it comes to breaking news, and this could scare off anyone who enjoys covering the UFC from breaking any news that might make the company look bad in the future. Having a public company try to control the media is a very dangerous precedent. Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Snowden tweeted that this is not just about Ariel Helwani but is actually normal for the UFC.
Did fans really not know that UFC has long used the threat of a lifetime ban to keep entrenched media in line? It's a decade old policy.— Jonathan Snowden (@JESnowden) June 5, 2016
While the news of the Ariel Helwani ban has sent ripples through the world of journalism, there might be more to the story than that. The UFC has been pretty silent on the entire Helwani ordeal, possibly letting their actions speak louder than their words could have. However, according to the Los Angeles Times, UFC spokesman Dave Sholler said that the Ariel Helwani ban was not just about breaking the Brock Lesnar news.
The newspaper reports that Sholler said the ban was not just about the Brock Lesnar news, calling the Ariel’s statement “not wholly accurate.” Sholler said that the professional standards for working with the UFC are to reach out to them for a comment on any story that is to be reported. Even if they give a “no comment,” they at least want to know the story is coming. That was a point of contention when Ariel Helwani broke the news of the proposed Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz rematch that was supposed to take place at UFC 200.
The Brock Lesnar news was just the straw that broke the camel’s back and led to the Ariel Helwani ban. That means the UFC is setting an example of a pretty powerful MMA journalist to prove a point.
Yahoo Sports reported that there was also the idea that the UFC felt that Ariel Helwani was too negative towards their brand. Ariel Helwani lost his job at FOX Sports and UFC Tonight for what was allegedly his discussion during an interview with Rory McDonald about “promoting free agency.” That was something that already had Dana White angry. Ariel also has a lot of positive coverage of rival companies like Bellator.
According to Ariel Helwani, when Dana White was kicking him out of UFC 199 after breaking the Brock Lesnar news, he told Ariel to just go cover Bellator because they didn’t want him covering the UFC anymore. If that is true, then the UFC are possibly sending a dangerous message to journalists to play nice or they won’t invite them to play inside the UFC at all anymore.
[Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP Images]