Now that he’s no longer associated with ESPN and doesn’t have to worry about his business relationship with the UFC, Ariel Halawani feels very comfortable talking about his time with “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”
While appearing on Monday’s edition of “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz,” the MMA journalist spoke at length about his time at ESPN and his strained relationship with Dana White. The UFC president has never been a big fan of Halawani, in particular He was kicked out of UFC 199 He was barred from all future events after Halawani accurately reported Brock Lesnar’s return to the UFC. (The ban was Later raised.)
This incident occurred in 2016 while Halawani was working for MMAFighting.com, but White was ruthless after he joined ESPN in 2018. Earlier this year, White The confectioner called “the douche” In response to Halawani’s criticism of former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano, who received a backlash over controversial social media posts comparing the current political climate to Nazi Germany.
Halwani’s three-year contract with ESPN expired in June, and he decided to pursue other opportunities with Vox Media, Spotify, Substack and BT Sport. But Lou Battard wanted to know if Helwani’s decision to leave ESPN really was, or whether White played a role in his exit – that’s completely unimaginable given ESPN and the UFC agreed to Five-year deal worth $1.5 billion In 2018, ESPN granted the entire rights package to the company.
His full response:
“So I can’t answer that question with a yes or no, but I’ll explain it this way. From the moment it was announced that I joined ESPN – without my knowledge in my life, and in my child’s life – I didn’t know when I was hired from Before ESPN, I didn’t know they were in talks with the UFC. I had no idea. At the time, they really had, like, one MMA guy on the staff. I thought, ‘Okay, the sport is growing, Conor McGregor, they want to boost coverage. I had no idea what the other stuff was. And then if you remember – and you can go back and look – at first they signed it in a 10-card deal, ESPN+ only. I said, “Well, they’re not the only and exclusive broadcast partner. I can live with that. And then it got totally scary, and then I started getting nervous. So from the moment it was announced in mid-May I was going to ESPN, and at the time, they had already signed this deal with ESPN, the UFC did it, Dana White tried to force me to even make it to my first day. I mean, he raised hell for trying to stop me – my first day was June 15 – he tried to stop me [from getting to] First day. Now, counting a lot of CEOs out there, they’ve all said no. They all had my back. They gave me offers. They gave me opportunities. But over the next three years, it was one roadblock after another. It has been case after case. It was all kinds of things.
“I’m going to tell you a story. I’ve never shared that story. When I’m at events, Dan and everyone–and let’s say it’s the extra weights, right?–and there’s an office there and I’m doing something beforehand, but Dana White is coming as a guest in 30 minutes or something like that.” …I must be escorted out of place because, at his request, I cannot be near him or in his field of vision.So here I am, at the site of the company where I work, security, the nicest people in the world who are embarrassed to have to do so, They’ll tell me, ‘I’m sorry, Ariel. We have to walk you out.’ Do you know how someone feels about that? “We have to get you out of here because Dana White doesn’t want you out of his sight.” I said, “I’m going to sit right there. I won’t even look at him. I’ll look at my phone. What are we doing here?” So that’s the kind of thing I had to deal with. I couldn’t go backstage. I couldn’t do a lot of other things. “
While El Halawani has no “bad intention” towards anyone on ESPN, he admitted he was “disappointed” by the offer he received after his previous contract expired.
“For the record, they made me a show, and it was a show that I think a lot of people who cover mixed martial arts would be thrilled with,” Halawani said. “At the end of the day, there was an offer I had to turn down. They could have easily said, ‘Thanks for your time.'” Let’s go our separate ways.” But they made me an offer. It wasn’t an offer that I felt was fair or that was what I was looking for or even reflective of the work I’ve done over the past three years. I was 100 percent disappointed with the offer. It wasn’t This is what I expected.”
The 39-year-old added that he never expected to work for just three years at ESPN, but feels that it all “sort of worked out”. Halawani is now more “free” and “independent” as an MMA reporter.
“[White] “He might think he kicked me out,” Halawani said. Perhaps – in fact, I know he celebrates that I no longer exist, but I will argue that he has done me a great favor as a result of all his complaints about the past three years.”
You can watch Le Batard’s full interview with Helwani below.