by Jason Howard Kelly
This past weekend was highlighted by UFC’s latest pay-per-view event, UFC 199, which was arguably the biggest sporting event in the U.S. on Saturday night. UFC 199 featured two title fights: Dominik Cruz vs. Uriah Faber for the Bantamweight Championship and Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping for the Middleweight Championship. Along with those two title fights the UFC had one of the its strongest cards to date, with exciting fights up and down the entire card.
Perhaps the only thing more exciting than the actual fights on Saturday night was the promo that UFC showed for its upcoming super show, UFC 200, which takes place on July 9th in Las Vegas. The ad started out by showing Jon “Bones” Jones and his opponent, Daniel Cormier, arriving at the arena to get ready for their Light Heavyweight Championship fight, which is the main event of UFC 200. The promo went on to highlight some of the other big fights that will be taking place at UFC 200, such as Frankie Edgar vs. José Aldo and Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes for the Women’s Bantamweight Championship. This was undoubtedly one of the best promos that the UFC has ever crafted, with a powerful crescendo to the end of the ad which showed the poster for UFC 200 with all of the big fights featured on it.
And then we heard it…
“Can you see me now?!? Can you see me now!?!?”
And then we saw him…
Brock Lesnar / via larrybrownsports.com
The UFC stunned its audience with that short teaser, confirming that Brock Lesnar, the former UFC Heavyweight Champion, would be returning to fight at UFC 200. Lesnar left the UFC back in 2012 and would later restart his WWE career for the next several years. The consensus among the MMA community was that Lesnar was done fighting in the UFC because his body could not take it anymore. Lesnar signed a lucrative contract with WWE which only requires him to compete a few times per year, which keeps his body in good shape.
Lesnar returning to the UFC is one of the biggest things to happen in MMA in 2016. Ariel Helwani, a prominent MMA reporter, recognized this and did what any reporter on the planet Earth would do — he reported it. The problem is that Dana White and the UFC didn’t want him to break the news before they did, which led to this…
What exactly was Helwani supposed to do? Sit on a huge piece of news and not do his job because it will make Dana White angry? Of course not. Any other reporter would have done what Helwani did. A reporter’s job is to report the news, plain and simple. Reporters do not work by any schedule other than their own. It is pretty clear that the UFC spent a lot of money on this ad and are very protective of it, so Dana White’s frustration with Helwani is understandable. However, if the UFC wants to be considered a major sport that has professional reporters covering it then this is what the powers-that-be will have to deal with.
Perhaps what the UFC officials should have done was reached out to Helwani and other reporters and asked them not to break the news before the UFC could run their ad. Because as Helwani said in that final tweet, he is a huge MMA fan. It is more than likely that Helwani would have agreed to stay quiet on the Lesnar news until after the UFC had run the promo during the pay-per-view. Instead, the UFC has decided to punish Helwani for doing nothing more than his job, and the punishment is beyond egregious.
Hopefully this is just another case of Dana White losing his cool, overreacting, and then later realizing his mistake and correcting it. After all, being, “banned for life” by Dana White doesn’t mean a whole lot considering how many times he has changed his mind in his career. White once said women would never fight in the UFC, then he changed his mind. White also once said that Brock Lesnar would never fight in the UFC again after leaving in 2012, and obviously, he changed his mind on that, too.
Helwani also hopes that cooler heads will eventually prevail in this situation..