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Ariel Helwani reacts to critics: ‘It’s comical to me’

Ariel Helwani learned to stop listening to critics a long, long time ago.

Ariel Helwani has stood atop the mixed martial arts (MMA) media mountain for a long time, and with that, naturally, comes criticism.

Helwani, 37, has been the sport’s most recognizable and successful journalist for at least a decade. His career has taken him from websites like MMA Fighting to mainstream sports networks like ESPN and FOX Sports. The Montreal-born journalist served as the season finale guest on The Insiders, revealing how he deals with criticism inside and outside the industry. He touched on objectivity and access.

“There are a lot of misconceptions and funny things,“ Helwani said. “I crack up when people say, ‘Ariel is doing this for that because the UFC said so or to protect the UFC.’ Let’s be honest, guys, it hasn’t been the rosiest relationship. Why in the world would I go out of my way? I see your colleagues saying, ‘I’m all about the access’ and things like that. If you knew the issues that I had to go through on a daily basis, the obstacles, way more than anyone because of the broadcast relationship and because I’m there. It’s comical to me.

“I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to anyone,” he continued. “I think a lot of it is rooted in jealousy. I see things written about me all the time, I see things said about me all the time. At this point, I take it as a compliment because people tend to shoot up, they tend to punch up as opposed to punching down. I learned a long time ago to stop getting worked up over those things.”

Helwani admitted alarms went off when UFC announced a long-term deal with ESPN. When Helwani was approached about working with the major sports network, he had only known about UFC’s 10-event deal through ESPN+.

“What just happened? Did I just go back to the FOX era? Which I did not want to be part of. It’s been completely different. I work 100 percent exclusively for ESPN,” Helwani said, alluding to pressures UFC placed on FOX that ultimately led to his departure from the network. “To be honest, when I signed with ESPN I had no idea they were getting into any deal.”

Helwani had nothing but praise for ESPN, noting how the network has stuck by him despite any possible friction between Helwani and UFC.

Timestamps are below for the video above.

0:57 - Steak well done
4:01- Ariel’s Brain
7:00 - Journey to the Top
12:41 - Transition to ESPN 15:33 - ESPN Critics
18:27 - Does ESPN Block Stories?
19:34 - MMAJA Concerns
25:34 - Leaving MMA Fighting
30:19 - Rapid Fire Questions
33:30 - Embarrassing Moments
37:14 - Creativity in MMA
39:59 - Interviewing Dwayne Johnson

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