UFC reverses direction following uproar and reinstates reporter who had been banned for life

The three MMAFighting.com journalists kicked out of UFC 199 last Saturday because one of them, Ariel Helwani, accurately reported that Brock Lesnar would come out of retirement and fight at next month’s UFC 200, will not be banned for life from the UFC. The fighting circuit announced Monday in a statement that they will receive future press credentials, 

From the UFC:

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.

Along with Helwani, Casey Leydon and Esther Lin were also removed from UFC 199 over the weekend and informed by UFC president Dana White that they had been banned for life from UFC events. Earlier that day, Helwani had reported that Lesnar would fight in July at UFC 200, which — as Helwani told it — upset UFC brass.

After he was blacklisted, Helwani, a widely-respected MMA reporter, shared the sequence of events from UFC 199 to his 300,000-plus Twitter followers. The story quickly circulated throughout the fighting and journalism communities, and Helwani received an outpouring of support.

On Monday, Helwani made the media rounds, including as a guest on Dan Patrick’s radio show, where he said he had been fired from a previous job at Fox at the UFC’s request. Many media figures called for a boycott of UFC 200 until Helwani, Leydon, and Lin were reinstated.

But later Monday afternoon, the story suddenly took a bizarre twist and turned out to be far less black-and-white than Helwani had initially suggested.

On his weekly show “The MMA Hour”, Helwani spoke for nearly two hours, admitting to a complicated and often journalistically-compromised relationship with White and the UFC. He confessed that he regularly agreed to let fighters screen his questions prior to interviews, and he revealed that he had been paid by Zuffa (UFC’s parent company) to appear on pre- and post-fight shows, all despite the fact that in journalism school he had learned that these actions constituted poor journalistic ethics. 

After the UFC reinstated Helwani and his two colleagues, Helwani took to Twitter to express his gratitude.


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