MMA reporter Ariel Helwani has responded to the backlash he has received for his controversial interview with Bryce Mitchell earlier this week.
On Monday’s installment of The MMA Hour, Bryce Mitchell came on the show two weeks out from his upcoming fight against Edson Barboza at UFC 272. Instead of talking about the fight or anything MMA-related, Mitchell shared his views on a wide range of topics.
The underlying theme of each topic was that Mitchell is willing to fight to the death to defend his freedom and that of others from government tyranny, such as forced vaccines or any possibility of the government trying to take away the right to bear arms. Mitchell also made other claims in the segment, including stating that many mass shootings in the United States are inside jobs in an attempt to ban guns.
The segment lasted for roughly half an hour and was the subject of some public criticism. As the host of the program and interviewer involved, Helwani took some flack for allowing the segment to continue for as long as it did.
Ariel Helwani Reacts To Backlash From Mitchell Interview
On his Substack page, Helwani addressed the fallout from the interview at length.
“In short, I don’t regret the way I handled it,” Helwani began. “A very small amount of people said I should have ended it earlier, and I can see their point, but that thought never really crossed my mind, to be honest.
“My main objective, once it was clear he didn’t want to talk MMA, was to show the audience that two people who don’t agree on any of this stuff can still shake hands (virtually) and walk away from the conversation with respect.
“Again, to be clear, I don’t agree with the vast majority of what he said. But I am also not really offended or persuaded by anything he said, either. It was so out there, how could I be? Honestly, I felt like he was doing a good job of his discrediting his theories on his own. I mean, when a cab driver in Vegas is your best source ….”
Helwani admitted that there were some things he wishes Mitchell had not said, though he did not specify which comments he was referring to. However, none of those things warranted silencing “Thug Nasty” from speaking unfiltered, which Helwani says his show is all about: providing a platform for the fighters to do and say as they please.
Helwani also noted that today’s online climate is toxic and divided enough as it is, so he felt it was important to show that there still can be civil discourse, even if two sides are standing on opposite sides of the aisle.
And even though the segment was far different from what was expected, he doesn’t hold any hard feelings toward Mitchell for going rogue.
“Am I mad at Bryce because it was very clear that this was intent when he agreed to come on the show? Not really. (And it is important to note that I asked him to come on, not vice versa. Of course, I invited him on to talk about his fight at UFC 272 against Edson Barboza, but alas.) I always try to see the good in people. Maybe that’s naive but I prefer to view people through that lens than to immediately dismiss and hate, which happens too often these days,” Helwani continued.
“I also don’t think he hijacked the show. I didn’t let him grab the mic. I felt like I was in control throughout. I enjoy the challenge of trying to steer a ship because, let’s be real, that could have been worse, believe it or not.”
Helwani went on to state that if he could go back and be placed in the same situation again, he wouldn’t handle it any differently. He also revealed that Mitchell texted him after the segment to show his gratitude.
“Would I do the same thing again? Yes. I didn’t endorse any of it, and I wasn’t rude to the guest,” Helwani continued. “Bryce texted me this afterwards:
‘Thank you for participating. I have so much respect for you bro. And I mean it when I said I will fight side by side with you when the next war comes. My brother.’
“I thought that was nice.”
How do you think Ariel Helwani should have handled the controversial Bryce Mitchell segment? Do you think he handled it well? Or is this all much ado about nothing?