If Ariel Helwani is getting banned for life for doing his job, a job of which he is famous for being more talented than anyone else at doing, than something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Of course the ban didn’t stick, how could it? Helwani is as trusted a name in MMA news as Sherdog and as popular aMMA celebrity as Joe Rogan. Of course Helwani’s large and loyal social media following made a stink and rallied the crowd and moved the needle and forced the UFC to reverse its lifetime ban in of Helwani in 72 hours and some change.
The darling of mixed martial arts press being banned for life for literally doing nothing other than his job is a symptom of a larger issue. What is that issue? That the UFC is for sale because it needs to be sold.
Dana White and the Ferrtita brothers have done their duty, their due diligence above and beyond the expectations and effort of what was expected of them when they purchased the UFC in 2001. They came in and turned an underground, in some places illegal, pseudo sport into the new new American past time.
But they are done. They bought low and are ready to sell high. They have had enough and want out. The writing is on the wall. What is the writing? That ESPN is reporting the company is for sale and they just tried to ban one of the most popular MMA reporters in history for doing his job.
Helwani has done as much as anyone to promote the sport of mixed martial arts. The UFC knows this because they have regularly involved him in their Fox Sports Net shows. To go from putting him on their programming to lifetime banning with literally no change in his actions on his part speaks volumes about where the UFC is as a company and where the owners are mentally.
If Dana White and the Fertitta brothers were not ready to sell or looking to sell than they wouldn’t be banning Helwani for doing his job and reporting on UFC news, they would have put him on their airwaves as they have done hundreds of times before to discuss and ipso facto, hype up the news.
White and the Fertitta’s aren’t looking to expand, they’re looking to cash out. They’re not looking for new trails to blaze, they’re looking for their golden parachute. They’re not looking to be bulls blazing forward they’re looking to be bears heading to hibernation. And if they aren’t, then they’re acting like it…and perception is reality.
As long as Joe Silva is still booking the matches then the UFC is in good hands.
In 2001 the UFC was essentially worthless. It wasn’t on broadcast tv, cable, or even pay per view. It was underground. Out of sight and out of mind to the general population and even to the general sports fan. No one, not even a vengeful critic would try to imply that Zuffa has been bad for the UFC or the sport of mixed martial arts. That is an impossible point to make.
Zuffa has earned its payday. They made mixed martial arts legit, then popular, then mainstream, then pop, and last but not least legal in New York State. They slayed the last dragon to be slayed while climbing the final mountain they had to climb. They earned their payout and are entitled to it. The problem is they are now acting entitled to their payout.
White has had public spats with multiple fighters in recent months and those spats have now spilled over into MMA press. It’s time to sell and move on before it gets uglier than it has already gotten. Before the public spats with top drawing fighters becomes anymore costly to the company’s bottom line and potential worth on the open market already has.