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UFC bans Ariel Helwani for life at UFC 199

UFC repoter Ariel Helwani

UFC repoter Ariel Helwani


If you were wondering why UFC President Dana White was absent from wrapping UFC gold around Dominick Cruz’s waist last night in the co-main event, this sounds like why.

One of the most highly respected journalist in mixed martial arts, MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, was escorted out of Saturday’s UFC 199 pay-per-view moments before the main event middleweight championship bout between Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping began, according to Helwani’s Twitter account.

“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.” – Helwani’s Twitter (@arielhelwani)

In addition to Helwani, MMA Fighting’s photo journalist Ester Lin and videographer Casey Leydon were escorted out and stripped of their credentials.

Earlier Saturday evening, leaked the breaking stories that former UFC Heavyweight champion and WWE superstar Brock Lesner was returning to the octagon from UFC 200 in July and that the highly anticipated rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz was set for UFC 202 in August. The announcements were made official by the UFC during the 199 pay-per-view main card.

Helwani, known for his impeccable reporting and breaking news coverage, was in a similar situation earlier this year after allegedly praising going free agency during UFC fighter interviews. Helwani was fired as a part-time reporter for Fox Sports after ruffling UFC feathers with his comments. Fox Sports is known for their connection with the UFC and Zuffa, leading to the speculation that Zuffa execs requested Helwani be removed from the sports network.

Helwani spoke with Yahoo Sports Sunday, giving a detailed description of the jaw-dropping actions taken by UFC officials. “I was brought to the back by UFC [public relations] and told by Dana White that I had to leave the arena. Dana mentioned that from what I recalled that Brock Lesner was upset the news was released early and that this could have ruined their deal.”

It has been known for years that White is not a fan of the MMA Hour host. “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.’

While the UFC and Zuffa execs may not want him there, fighters and fight fans alike undoubtedly do. Social media exploded in defense for the highly accredited reporter, even starting the hashtag #FreeHelwani. The love and admiration the MMA community has for Helwani is rare. When spotted at open work outs, fight nights or just out in public, Helwani is often asked for photos and autographs, something your average journalist does not usually encounter when covering an event.

But that’s the difference about Ariel. He’s not your average journalist.

Helwani, the host of the popular podcasts MMA Hour and MMA Beat, is a journalist that fighters WANT to talk to. They want him to conduct their post-fight interviews. They want to go on his shows. Helwani is a journalist for the fans and for the fighters. He asks the questions we want to know the answers to and confirms through multiple sources before reporting to ensure his authenticity.
While the UFC may not be a fan of his journalism, he is always respectful in the way he conducts himself. Even in this situation, knowing the voice and the reach he has in the community, Helwani has been nothing but respectful and professional.

“I love this sport & this job with all my heart,” Helwani posted early Sunday morning on his Twitter. “Did nothing unethical. I reported fight news. That’s it. & then told we’re banned for life.”

MMA Fighting’s VP of Editorial Operations at SB Nation, Kevin Lockland and MMA Fighting’s managing editor Bryan Tucker released a statement late Sunday regarding Saturday’s events. “MMA Fighting and SB Nation fully support Ariel, Casey, Esther and the entire MMA Fighting staff. And we appreciate the support we have received from the MMA Fighting audience and community.” They also stated that the UFC has not been in contact with them since revoking their credentials.

While the UFC execs may feel they don’t want or need Helwani, they do. Monday’s MMA Hour with Helwani will go more in-depth into this unfortunate situation. MMA Hour starts at 1 p.m. EST with live stream available on its YouTube channel and

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Kristine is a Managing Editor for as well as UFC/MMA Lead Writer. She also hosts a column known as Fighting Words.
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