Helwani Calls Out UFC For Promoting Fights That Weren’t Agreed To

Ariel Helwani is perhaps MMA media’s most influential journalist. For the last several years Helwani was employed by ESPN in spite of being UFC president Dana White’s public enemy. White hasn’t been a fan of Helwani for years – mostly because Helwani is an actual journalist. Unlike many members of MMA media Helwani actually has a journalism degree – he graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in Syracuse, New York.

With the degree also comes some integrity – which is a bitter pill to swallow because majority of MMA media is access based. In a nutshell – as long as you keep reporting on the press releases UFC sends out they will keep scheduling your media day interviews and giving you tips. This kind of an economy has created journalists such as Kevin Iole who shamelessly published the following recently:

 “Too many fighters in the sport are vastly overpaid. It’s great for them, but hurts the sport…
This is an individual sport, not a team sport, so their salaries should be based primarily on how many fans they put in seats”

This spectacular quote was a part of Iole’s recent article for Yahoo news.

While on the surface it might seem logical – ask yourself this: Would you want to receive lifechanging brain trauma for the exclusive chance to make $12k? There’s a big misconception about how much money the fighters are making outside the hardcore MMA fan community.

Just listen to what Snoop Dogg recently said:

“Imagine when these, for example, try UFC fighters. Someone who wins on the Contender and he gets a contract for 3 fights and then he gets another 3 fights and now he’s got $20-30 million and then two years later he has 0. Because he didn’t know how to position it ”

And Snoop Dogg actually commented a Contender series event – he’s not your average McGregor fan who tunes out every other MMA fight.

UFC has been announcing fights before the fighters agree to them – as an additional form of pressure.  One well publicized case was Paulo Costa vs Cannonier:


But more recently Helwani first cryptically tweeted:

And the tweet spree culminated in the revelation that the fight he was talking about was Holloway vs Volkanovski III.


Less than a day after UFC announced the title fight – it would be revealed that Holloway is out with injury. Surely this injury didn’t manifest itself in the several daylight hours that transpired in between. MMA Junkie reported:

 The trilogy fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway will have to wait.

Multiple people with knowledge of the promotion’s plans confirmed to MMA Fighting that an undisclosed injury has forced Holloway to withdraw from the targeted featherweight title fight at UFC 272 in March. ESPN was first to report Holloway’s withdrawal.

This might be another case of UFC inheriting Showbusiness practices. It’s widely known that trade publications in Hollywood will often announce stories about casting – on behalf of clients or properties in order to get the public to jump to certain conclusions. Considering UFC is owned by an infamous Hollywood agency Endeavor it’s not a stretch to see them utilizing press releases as another strong arming strategy.

But perhaps the fighters should also look at Hollywood for a solution to this caveat – Screen Actors Guild was formed back in 1933 in an effort to eliminate what was described as exploitation of Hollywood actors who were being forced into oppressive multi-year contracts with the major movie studios. Sound familiar?

Opposition to these contracts included that they did not include restrictions on work hours or minimum rest periods, and often had clauses that automatically renewed at the studios’ discretion.

This is eerily close to UFC’s current contracts as evidenced in the anti trust lawsuit. So, is it scummy to suggest this is a situation that needs to be rectified? The Hollywood mafia seems to be intent on not letting the fighters have the privileges’ they themselves have enjoyed for close to a hundred years.