Helwani recently departed from ESPN after deciding against signing a new contract with the sports media juggernaut. Instead, Helwani will now be working with MMAFighting again, BT Sport, and The Ringer. In addition, Helwani will be providing content through Substack and his YouTube channel.
It’s been well-documented that Helwani and White have their issues with one another. It all began when Helwani was kicked out of the venue just before the UFC 199 headliner. White felt Helwani betrayed his trust by breaking the news that Brock Lesnar would be returning for UFC 200. Initially, Helwani had his press credentials taken away but after blowback from major media outlets, the UFC quickly caved in and returned Helwani’s credentials.
Even though the issues between Helwani and White took place back in 2016, the beef remains fresh. When Helwani announced he signed with ESPN back in 2018, he didn’t know that his employer would soon sign a massive deal with the UFC.
Here’s what Helwani said during his appearance on the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz.
“From the moment it was made public that I was joining ESPN, unbeknownst to me on my life, on my kids’ life, when I was hired by ESPN I didn’t know that they were in talks with the UFC. I had no idea.”
Helwani admitted he was a bit nervous when ESPN became the sole broadcast partner of the UFC in the United States. His fears of White trying to sabotage his tenure with UFC came true.
“From the moment it was made public in mid-May that I was going to ESPN and at that time, it had already been out that they signed this deal with ESPN, Dana White tried to get me not even to make it to my first day. He raised hell, my first day was June 15th, [he] tried to stop me to get to the first day.
“Now, to the credit of a lot of the executives there, they all said no. They all had my back, they gave me shows, they gave me opportunities but for the next three years, it was one roadblock after the next. It was one issue after the next. It was all kinds of stuff.”
Helwani then revealed quite the story about being forced out of the building anytime White was about to enter.
“When I would be at events, Dan and everyone, and let’s say it’s the weigh-ins and there’s a desk there and I’m doing something beforehand, but 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.
“So here I am on the set of a company that 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, we have to walk you out.’ You know how that makes someone feel? ‘We have to walk you out of the venue because Dana White doesn’t want you in his line of sight.’ I said, ‘I’ll sit right over there. I won’t even look at him. I’ll look at my phone. What are we doing here?'”