MMA media landscape is very interesting. Currently the majority of mainstream outlets covers practically press releases. ESPN is a streaming partner to the UFC and as such they’re not even journalists at this point. Majority of other outlets peddle approved storylines and toe the company line.
This makes it east for a classically educated journalist like Ariel Helwani to stand out. Helwani is one of the rare if not only formally educated journalist in the space and as such he hasn’t been afraid to ask the hard questions or go against the grain.
Helwani has long been on Dana White’s bad side but this time it’s all about another significant beef against him. Manager Ali Abdelaziz declared war on Helwani a while back and basically banned his athletes from going on the MMA Hour. This is especially ridiculous considering the show is the number one go to for any MMA fan.
It all started in lead up to UFC 258 back in 2020. The headliner of the event was Kamaru Usman who was defending against Gilbert Burns- both are Abdelaziz’s clients. Helwani insisted that Leon Edwards is a more worthy of a title shot than Burns.
This irritated Abdelaziz which prompted the Egyptian to ban Helwani from having any kind of interviews with his clients. Since then, no athletes from Dominance MMA have appeared in Helwani interviews except two-time PFL champion Kayla Harrison who addressed it in her appearance.
Recently Helwani slammed Henry Cejudo for being obedient to his manager Ali Abdelaziz.
Helwani discussed his feud with Demetrious Johnson in a recent episode of The MMA Hour. Helwani is highly disappointed by former two-division champion Henry Cejudo, who turned his back on him by following Abdelaziz’s order.
“The thing is, Henry, I don’t wanna give myself the old pat on the back, but I kinda helped him along the way, and then he stabbed me in the back. I got him the Bella twins, you know the Bella twins? I got him in there, he’s hobnobbing with them, then all of a sudden he stabs me in the back, doesn’t come on the show anymore.” Helwani said.
Helwani believes he has helped Cejudo a lot in the past and even got him to meet The Bella Twins.
He added, “It’s really ’cause his manager won’t let him come on. Could you imagine? Could you imagine your manager telling you not to come on here and you being like, ‘Yes sir, yes sir.”
This dynamic between Cejudo and his manager is even more surprising considering his manager was unable to get Cejudo a decent payday and Khabib Nurmagomedov (also managed by Abdelaziz) was quoted saying he couldn’t believe how insubstantial Cejudo’s payments from the UFC were:
‘ “When I told Khabib how much I’m getting paid, how much I’m asking for, he was so dumbfounded. He’s like, ‘Really?’ He was like, ‘Really?’ He’s like, ‘Man, that’s not right. I understand you.’ It’s just that people are on different contracts, man. You know, Khabib’s making $10 million’
Cejudo’s MMA career is 18 fights long – 16 wins and 2 losses. He’s estimated to have made around $2 million for the duration. He’s been in the UFC as far back as 2016.