No one is talking about the fights today. Instead, they are all talking about how small-time the UFC looked after they revoked MMA reporter Ariel Helwani’s press credentials and banned him for life.
The reason: Helwani broke the story that Brock Lesnar was coming back to the UFC to fight at UFC 200.
This is a major story, and when you think of it, it’s actually a really good-news story for the UFC, the fact that Lesnar is returning. You would think they would all be pleased. But no. Apparently, from what I gather online, breaking this news upstaged the “official announcement” that the UFC had planned for UFC 199, so that’s why they were mad at Helwani and kicked him out.
A lot of people — just about everyone in the media — are really hopping mad about this and cannot believe what happened. It sure looks like the UFC is expecting reporters at their events to be “shills” for their product, instead of doing what they are paid to do, which is report breaking news.
Heck, I’m sympathetic to Helwani’s situation here because there have been too many events that I have gone to, as a reporter, where organizers regard the media as nothing more than glorified publicity agents. Then, when we end up reporting the “real” news instead of promoting whatever their “message” is, they get mad. It’s typical.
Anyway, that is a rant for another day. Personally, as a sports fan, there is no way I want to see sports reporters acting as shills for any sport – it just damages their credibility when they do that. I expect to see them report the good and the bad, and telling it like it is. The fans expect honesty, that is what they deserve.
Moreover, fans love it when these sports reporters are out there breaking scoops. Heck, that’s what they do on TSN and Sportsnet with their NHL “insiders” during their “trade-deadline” and “free-agency” coverage. These reporters aren’t bossed around by the NHL and told to wait for “official announcements” whenever some big deal is brewing. Instead, they break the stories, which is what the fans expect. Moreover, it’s good for the game when these scoops happen, it keeps the interest up.
Why the UFC won’t let reporters have the same free reign to do their jobs is mind-boggling, because muzzling the media is just plain self-defeating for any sport.
Helwani was on his online show The MMA Hour today and was very emotional about the whole situation. He was basically crying on the air about what had happened. I do hope cooler heads will ultimately carry the day and that Helwani can go back to doing his job reporting at UFC events.
Update: and now comes word Helwani is reinstated. Good. Still, hardly impressed by this whole situation.