(Sixty years ago, we had Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly. Now, we’ve got these guys.)
To read previous installments of the award-winning “Shill ‘Em All” series, look here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
By Brian J. D’Souza
The class action lawsuit filed against the UFC by Cung Le, Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch has dramatically polarized the MMA sphere. Instead of debating the merits of the case, many are debating whether the lawsuit has a right to exist.
Chael Sonnen has characterized the lawsuit as a “shakedown”; others say that the plaintiffs are just bitter ex-fighters who have an axe to grind. It’s bizarre that so many are acting as if these events suddenly crept up quietly to ambush the UFC—and it’s also a symptom of the poor job done by the MMA media in reporting business concepts in a way fans can understand them.
A “USEFUL IDIOT”
Last month, Chael Sonnen sounded off on Ariel Helwani on his podcast, saying “You’re not a journalist, you’re a parrot.” The message wasn’t coming from a warm, fuzzy place inside Sonnen’s heart—the Oregonian wrestler was irate at Helwani’s handling of the steroid scandal Sonnen had been embroiled in, which lead to Sonnen’s exit from MMA competition.
FrontRowBrian—a Twitter personality who has the ability to scoop news stories and rumors that the mainstream media either doesn’t know about or is too scared to touch—added his own insight into the Helwani-UFC relationship, which hit a snag when Helwani was reported to be on the outs at UFC partner FoxSports in January 2014.
With his typically cheerful ginger candor, FrontRowBrian tweeted (then later, deleted) that Helwani was a “useful idiot,” and said that the UFC had temporarily fired him because they “just wanted to show him who is the boss and how they can end a career.”
Ariel Helwani is an extreme case of someone with overt dependence on the UFC. Like many media members, he knows what the key issues are between MMA promoters and the fighters, but he makes a conscious effort to restrain himself from fully developing very specific ideas in his reporting.
For example, when Nate Diaz’s complaints about pay made headlines in April, Helwani wrote a very detailed article for MMAFighting.com outlining Diaz’s points, as well as a succinct reply from Dana White. Carefully omitted from the article is any analysis of the revenue Nate Diaz generates for the UFC versus what he’s paid.