Reporter escorted out of UFC 199 after breaking story about Brock Lesnar’s return

Dominick Cruz strikes with his right leg during the bantamweight title fight against Urijah Faber at UFC 199.
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)

Minutes after’s Ariel Helwani reported an exclusive story that WWE star and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar was close to returning to fight for the organization at UFC 200 on July 9, Helwani’s credential was pulled at UFC 199 and he was escorted outside the Forum on Saturday night.

Helwani tweeted to his 363,000 followers that two colleagues, photographer Esther Lin and video director E. Casey Leydon, were also removed from UFC 199 before Michael Bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold to win the middleweight title and become the first fighter from England to win a UFC belt.

“I love this sport & this job with all my heart,” Helwani tweeted. “Did nothing unethical. I reported fight news. That's it. & then told we're banned for life.”

UFC spokesman Dave Sholler told the Los Angeles Times and USA Today Sports following the post-fight news conference that Helwani and his crew’s removal was not entirely tied to breaking the Lesnar news – which was confirmed later Saturday night when the organization played a UFC 200 promotional ad inside the Forum that featured Lesnar at the end uttering his catchphrase, “Can you see me now?”

“That’s not wholly accurate,” Sholler said when asked if Helwani’s Lesnar story alone provoked his ban.

Conor McGrego-Nate Diaz rematch to take place at UFC 202 >>

Helwani certainly was handed some scoops by the company in his role as a UFC reporter for Fox until he was removed from that position recently, but his network of sources also provides valuable information, including word that the Conor McGregor-Nate Diaz rematch originally would headline UFC 200.

That report preceded Helwani’s ouster at Fox.

A dispute between McGregor and UFC officials caused a postponement of the rematch until UFC 202 on August 20 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, which the UFC announced in the arena and on its $59.95 pay-per-view broadcast Saturday night.

The UFC’s interest in distributing information to the given news outlet it sees as the best fit – such as McGregor’s exclusive interview with ESPN two weeks ago – has never been more calculated, irking some who cover the sport and rely on the quality of their sources to break news.

Michael Bisping makes the most of his UFC 199 title shot >>

“I’m not saying you don’t have a job to report, but in this case [with Helwani], the professional standards are to reach out [to the UFC] for comment on a story you’re about to report, even if you get a no-comment,” Sholler said.

Part of the problem is most major sports – including boxing – have formal writers’ associations that allow reporters to gather to discuss policies or protest treatment such as Helwani’s in collective strength. The efforts to unite MMA writers in such an association have failed to this point.


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