The one thing you can say about Ariel Helwani with certainty is that he is a survivor. The countdown to ESPN’s first UFC event, UFC Fight Night Cejudo vs Dillashaw, is a mere flick of the remote away on January 19th.
The broadcasting deal has basically doubled the value of the UFC brand and Dana White’s skills as a promoter par excellence yet again zoom into monetary focus.
And yet and yet……
Ariel Helwani is front and center of the ESPN MMA Product. Dana White cannot be happy about this. Helwani formerly served as an ” MMA Insider” for Fox Sports 1 and their weekly UFC Tonight Show. Ariel lost the position in highly controversial circumstances with many pointing the finger at Dana White and his influence with the broadcaster. Helwani survived and thrived despite White’s best efforts though.
The fact that ESPN have picked up Helwani and the Ariel Helwani MMA Show bodes well for the fans and indicates that the network are probably not going to give the UFC as easy a ride as Fox Sports. Indeed I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Dana White first got the news about Helwani and ESPN!
Don’t get me wrong there are a number of aspects to Helwani’s style of reporting that I do not like. He can quite often walk interview subjects into a controversy not of their own making, as he often has more information to hand on a subject than they do. He is quite blatantly using them to fill gaps on a bigger, sometimes more controversial story.
The smarter fighters and ex-fighters know what he is doing and usually side-step potential problems, Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping spring to mind on this score.
However he is for my money the only true “journalist” covering the sport and it is fascinating to watch him operate. I have seen him ask questions of fighters and coaches where I have thought
” he is in physical danger of getting a punch here!”
So while most of the public are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the ESPN juggernaut and what Razzmatazz it will bring to our screens, I’m looking forward to the first blows in the Heavyweight match up of White vs Helwani.