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"I know he's celebrating" - Ariel Helwani reveals if Dana White was the reason he left ESPN

MMA journalist Ariel Helwani
MMA journalist Ariel Helwani
Rafael Bandayrel

Renowned sports journalist Ariel Helwani recently revealed whether UFC president Dana White was the reason he left media giant ESPN. The MMA reporter turned down an extension after his three-year contract with the network expired in June.

Speaking with fellow sports commentator Dan Le Batard, the 38-year-old pulled the curtain back to reveal what his relationship with the UFC boss is like. According to Ariel Helwani, Dana White put "one roadblock after the next" in front of him during his tenure with ESPN.

"He [Dana White] didn't make it easy," Helwani said. "He probably thinks he ran me out. In fact, I know he's celebrating that I'm not there anymore, but I would argue that he did me a massive favor."

Helwani also recounted a few of Dana White's whims:

"When I would be at events, and let's say it's the weigh-ins, right? And there's a desk there and I would be doing something beforehand and Dana White is coming as a guest in 30 minutes or something... I would have to be escorted out of the venue because per his request, I couldn't be in his vicinity or his line of sight."

Ariel Helwani added that the experience was not only a nuisance for him, but it was also embarrassing for the security personnel who had to ask him to leave. He added:

"So here I am on the set of a company I work for and security, the nicest people in the world who were embarrassed that they had to do this, would tell me, 'I'm sorry Ariel I would have to walk you out.' You know how that makes someone feel?"

Helwani didn't directly mention that White was the reason for his departure from ESPN, but he implied that the UFC president's behavior towards him certainly contributed. But in the end, Helwani said it worked out for him as he's now free from the constraints of working with the UFC's official media partner.

Right now, Helwani primarily covers MMA for BT Sport and The Ringer. He also returned as host of MMA Fighting's The MMA Hour talk show.

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Dana White's beef with Ariel Helwani

UFC 200 New York Press Event
UFC 200 New York Press Event

Ariel Helwani rose to prominence after breaking the news about the return of former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar to the octagon in 2016. Helwani reported Lesnar was close to signing a deal to fight at UFC 200, despite still being active in the WWE.

However, Dana White was livid after Ariel Helwani "ruined" his surprise announcement. Helwani's scoop earned him an ejection from UFC 199 and was threatened with a "lifetime ban" from covering future UFC events.


Edited by Utathya Ghosh

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