The UFC have announced that they’ve lifted a ban on highly regarded MMA journalist Ariel Helwani, just days after UFC President Dana White personally informed him that he was banned for life.
“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,” the UFC statement reads. “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.”
Helwani, who works for MMAFighting.com. had been covering Saturday night’s UFC 199 pay-per-view live in Los Angeles when he broke the news that former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar was going to make a shock comeback to the promotion at UFC 200 in July.
The UFC brass were infuriated by Helwani’s scoop, which came before they had a chance to reveal the news themselves with a flashy video promo that aired later that night, and so the reporter was summoned to a meeting with White prior to the main event.
Helwani was then informed by White that he was banned for life, along with his videographer, E. Casey Leydon and photographer Esther Lin (also both of MMAfighting.com).
That outrageous decision to punish a journalist for doing his job sent shockwaves around the MMA community and beyond, leading to widespread condemnation from both fans and media around the world.
Yesterday, an emotional Helwani detailed his side of the story on his popular ‘MMA Hour’ radio show, as well as other high-profile interviews with the likes of ESPN SportsCenter, Yahoo! Sports, ‘The Dan Patrick Show’, ‘The Rich Eisen Show’ and ‘The Dan Le Betard Show.’
Needless to say this had now become a full-blown PR disaster for the UFC that had completely overshadowed both a terrific UFC 199 event, and the massive news that Brock Lesnar was returning at UFC 200, together with Conor McGregor’s rematch with Nate Diaz being confirmed for UFC 202.
Despite that, a defiant Dana White had told TMZ Sports yesterday that the ban on Helwani would remain, “as long as I’m here.”
However, the UFC brass have since reconsidered and finally done the right thing by lifting the ban, though a lot of damage has already been done to their reputation by this heavy-handed approach to dealing with the media that’s in no way befitting of the leading organization in a sport that still strives to be taken seriously among the world’s other sporting instituations.