Helwani defends Nate Diaz, calls out UFC for benching and exploiting him

Ariel Helwani has been a controversial personality in the MMA fandom. On one hand he’s one of the rare educated journalists covering MMA and on the other he’s far removed from the community. But recently he went on an interesting tangent while defending Nate Diaz and his very public request to get released from the promotion.

Helwani ripped UFC over the pay structure they utilize correctly pointing out that the athletes don’t get any of the revenue share:

“Let me ask you guys this: in this world where you can get cut after signing a six-fight deal after the first fight, right… In a world where there’s no revenue sharing, where there’s no collective bargaining, where you don’t have sponsors anymore. Well, they put sponsors on you but you don’t get a cut of that. Where they sign 1.5 million TV deals and you don’t get a cut of that. You have a situation where the promoter is making over a billion dollars in revenue, most of it fixed revenue, [the fighters] won’t get a cut of that.”

“In that world, why is it that there’s a guy who’s getting a little up there in age, who says, ‘I want to fight’ and they don’t get to honor that… Why don’t they get to honor that? And so again, one more example as to how the contracts aren’t fair to fighters.”

Helwani went on to clarify that it’s very important for athletes and media members to talk about this:
“If we don’t talk about these things, we don’t bring up these injustices and these conflicts of interest and the way this whole system and whole sport is built and structured to be anti-fighter, to leave them with nothing at the very end, to leave them powerless, to leave them with no actual bargaining power, leverage, all that… If you don’t care about that stuff, I wonder and I question if you really love the sport.”

Diaz is in a very specific situation – not all that dissimilar to that of Francis Ngannou. He’s on the last bout of his contract but the UFC refuses to book it. During an episode of Ringer MMA show Helwani captured the situation:

“Nate obviously wants the fight, Nathan wants to fight. Dustin wants the fight. The UFC actually wants the fight. But they want it with a caveat: they want to extend [Nate Diaz’s] contract. And that’s going to be the push and pull in this whole scenario, right?”

In the end it’s highly unlikely the promotion would allow Diaz to leave without resigning him. UFC had previously had even more constrictive contracts but they’ve since tried to pull that slightly in an attempt to stall out the class action lawsuit that was certified.