UFC News Creates Chaos!
When i say the last four days have been crazy, I am still understating the issue. From the death of Muhammad Ali on Friday night to the shocking death of Kimbo Slice on Monday night, in between has been a world wind of news within the UFC.
On Friday, I started hearing rumors that Brock Lesnar was going to be returning to the UFC and be on the 200 PPV. I thought it was just another fake story, much like all the Flyod vs Conor talk. Then the shocking news of Muhammad Ali's death broke, and that really took over the news cycle and social media conversation.
Well on Saturday, UFC 199 was about to begin in LA, and I heard from a source that some big news was coming tonight. I thought about Brock for a second, then I saw a video of Nate Diaz, bitch slapping Dana White on Facebook, and thought, well I guess they settled their issues and the Conor fight is signed, that's the big news.
But no, that wasn't it! The huge news was from my favorite MMA reporter Ariel Helwani of MMAfighting.com, and that was that Brock Lesnar was returning to the Octagon to fight at UFC 200 on July 8th.
Now as I said, I heard rumblings on Friday, but until I heard it from Ariel, Jeremy Botter, or Dave Meltzer, the three guys I trust the most in MMA journalism. And within minutes, everyone confirmed it.
Of course this was huge news, and it broke as the UFC was starting their PPV show. Later in the show, UFC confirmed the news with a video package and announcement of Brock Lesnar. But no opponent was announced. I found this strange. I also found it strange that Joe Rogan had no clue this was happening. I began to wonder if UFC was really planning to announce Brock on Saturday night, or were they forced to because Ariel broke the news.
This is where all the controversy began.
Just before Michael Bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold to capture the UFC Middleweight championship, (full highlights and review here), Ariel Helwani was evicted from the LA Forum arena and banned from covering UFC events forever!!!!
According to Helwani, he as well as his coworkers at MMAfighting.com, Casey Leydon and Esther Lin, had their UFC credentials pulled because Helwani broke the news that Brock Lesnar was returning to the Octagon.
Helwani spoke on the situation during several interviews on Monday:
The story of Ariel being banned and stripped of his press credentials spread like wild fire and the UFC came under some major heat. Many came to the defense of Helwani and thought the UFC and in particular Dana White was being a complete bitch about the whole situation. It was even stated that Brock Lesnar was the reason for Helwani's ban as he was pissed off the news got leaked.
Also on Monday, we found out that Brock's opponent at UFC 200 would in fact be Mark Hunt, the heavyhitting Samoan knockout artist. This was announced on ESPN SportsCenter Monday morning in an interview with Hannah Storm.
According to WrestlingObserver.com, Lesnar talked about how he second-guessed his decision to retire from the moment he made it 15 months ago. At the time, Lesnar had done a secret training camp and claimed that the fire wasn't in him, and did, given his stage, what most were expecting and considered the "smart" move of signing a three-year deal with WWE and officially returning.
When asked why he was fighting, Lesnar said, "Because I couldn't live with that decision. Going back to that (prevous interview with Michelle Beadle) interview, it was a hard decision for me to make. That decision has haunted me for the last 15 months and I couldn't live life like that for the rest of my life. I'm a big believer of `I don't want to be sitting 20 years from now and saying I should have done it."
Lesnar claimed the return was all his doing, that he made the first call to Dana White, and that it led to White and Vince McMahon making "billionaire decisions." He gave no details on what it took to put the deal together past that it was good business for everyone. He laughed that his pay "has a lot of 0s" behind it.
The UFC, in a deal worked with the WWE, is bringing Lesnar back for a one-off appearance at UFC 200. Vince making the deal to put Lesnar in a situation where he could be humiliated is notable and there had to be enough of a deal from the UFC side to cause that decision. McMahon, in contracts with talent, specifically doesn't allow them to do MMA.
When asked about the Ariel Helwani situation, Brock said he had no idea who that was. But clearly we all know he knows who Ariel is, so there is something more to this story that has yet to come out.
Then late Monday night, the story took another twist. UFC lifted the ban on Ariel and the staff from MMAfighting. They released the following statement.
Following a conversation with the editorial team at SB Nation, UFC will not prevent MMAFighting.com from receiving media credentials to cover live UFC events. We respect the role the media plays in our sport and beyond, including MMAFighting’s ability to report news. However, in our opinion, we believe the recurring tactics used by its lead reporter extended beyond the purpose of journalism. We feel confident our position has now been adequately communicated to the SB Nation editorial team.
UFC’s goal as the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion is to cultivate interest in its world-class athletes and events, and deliver for the fans. We will continue to introduce this sport and its athletes to new fans across the world, and we will do so by working alongside media across all platforms.
This was shocking. Clearly the public and media outrage got to the UFC and the PR nightmare was too much for them to ignore. MMAfighting responded.
After a conversation with UFC officials Monday night, a credential ban on reporter Ariel Helwani, photo journalist Esther Lin and video journalist E. Casey Leydon has been lifted.
MMAFighting.com is appreciative of the fact that the UFC was willing to rethink its stance, however, we respectfully disagree with the UFC's claim that "recurring tactics used by [Ariel Helwani] extended beyond the purpose of journalism."
SB Nation and MMA Fighting will continue to stand behind Helwani's work and the contributions of the rest of the employees on the staff.
MMAFighting.com would like to sincerely thank all the fans, media and fighters who supported us during this time.
And then Kimbo Slice died, and the news cycle changed again!!! What a crazy four days. We will have more in this week's Week in MMA report at Causioncreations.com.