Dana White. One of the most recognisable faces in all of MMA, especially within the UFC. Ariel Helwani. One of the most recognisable faces in all of MMA, especially within media circles. The two men are the best of enemies.
White needs to promote his fighters and Helwani needs access to fighters in order to boost views on his extremely successful ‘MMA Hour’ podcast through MMAFighting. The two men would benefit from a mutual relationship. Helwani could help White by promoting the upcoming fights, help him push those fighters who need a little more promotion which could consequently lead to more PPV buys. White could aid Helwani by giving him exclusive interviews and access to the behind-the-scenes goings on of the UFC.
So, why is it that the two men have a bitter rivalry that runs deep, gets personal and often boils over?
When Helwani came on the scene, he was quickly making a name for himself by having huge names on his show. Naturally, White saw this and began a working relationship with the Candian journalist. By 2010, Helwani was given unprecedented access. He got the best backstage access to fighters, was the first person to ask fighters questions as they were emerging from their fights and continued to interview big names on his podcast. This wasn’t a coincidence. White allowed this to happen for Helwani.
In 2011, Helwani signed for FOX. This is where the relationship began to break down. Fox and the UFC signed a deal. In March 2016, FOX Sports fired Helwani after Helwani badmouthed the UFC on occasion, expressed controversial views on fighter pay and conducted interviews with UFC fighters discussing leaving the promotion. In particular, an interview with Rory MacDonald didn’t go down well.
June 4th 2016. The beginning of the hateful relationship between White and Helwani. The setting: UFC 199, Inglewood, California. UFC 200, one of the biggest events in UFC history is on the horizon.
Helwani, who was in attendance at UFC 199 as a member of the media tweeted about the return of one of the UFC’s megastars, Brock Lesnar at UFC 200.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June 5, 2016
The issue was, this was meant to be a secret. There was a whole promo package lined up for the return of Lesnar and yet, Helwani informed fans before Dana White or the UFC could. On the same evening, Helwani leaked that Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz‘s rematch was being worked on for UFC 202. This, understandably rubbed White up the wrong way.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June 4, 2016
The issue with these two leaks was that Helwani shared information without the permission of the UFC or notifying them before he did so. They had planned to air the Lesnar return package at the end of UFC 199 to hype fans up before the biggest event in UFC history.
In turn, Helwani was removed from the event by security and stripped of his press credentials and banned from any further UFC events as long as White is president of the organisation. Helwani stated on his show the day after:
“Right before the main event a member of the UFC PR staff came to me and said that Dana White wants to speak to you. So we go to the back, Dana White is there, some other members of his team are there and he just says to me ‘You’re out. Get out of here. You’re done. We don’t want you here anymore. Go to Bellator'”
Helwani signed with ESPN in 2018 and was allowed to attend UFC events… until Dana White arrived in the building that is. White stated that he didn’t want Helwani in his line of sight and would have Helwani removed from the events when he arrived.
Even today, the two men don’t get along. As recently as the UFC’s latest PPV, UFC 282, where there were some great odds at promoguy.us, White took another opportunity to abuse Helwani.
White was a guest on UFC star, Paddy Pimblett‘s podcast, both Pimblett and White launched an attack on Helwani, stating that he was a ‘rodent’ who’s been fired from ‘every good job he’s ever had’ amongst other, strange insults.
Will the two men ever see eye to eye? It’s doubtful, despite the fact that the two men could easily have a mutually beneficial relationship.