One of Fox Sports’ most-connected insiders has left the network. That would be prominent MMA journalist Ariel Helwani, who’s been an important part of Fox’s MMA coverage since 2011. Helwani tweeted Wednesday that he and Fox have parted ways, but he’ll be continuing his regular work for SB Nation’s MMAFighting.com. Here’s his full statement:
I wanted to let you know that I’ve parted ways with the UFC on FOX. That means I’ll no longer be appearing on UFC Tonight, as well as the event coverage on FS1.
It’s been an honor and a privilege to cover the sport for FOX. I was one of the first on-air MMA people hired back in 2011, and I met some wonderful people along the way. I hope to work with some them again at some point. I thank everyone involved for the opportunity.
But I’m completely at peace with this decision and believe it’s for the best.
While working at FOX was great, it was always a part-time job. My full-time job since 2009 has been working for MMAFighting.com. Nothing has changed there. The MMA Hour will air on Monday, The MMA Beat tomorrow … all status quo. I humbly believe that I am a part of the best team in the business, working for the best bosses in the business.
Anyway, perhaps I’ll talk about this more on Monday’s show.
For now, thanks to all of you, the amazing fans of this great sport, for your incredible support since the beginning of my career. I do not take it for granted, and it sincerely means the world to me. Thank you for always watching/listening/reading.
As Jay-Z once said, on to the next one …
It’s going to be interesting to see if Helwani indeed talks more about this, and if so, what he says. Without more than what he’s said so far, discussion of the reasons for his departure is only speculation, but that speculation has gone down some notable roads. One is that Helwani’s reporting, which has rubbed UFC president Dana White the wrong way in the past, was causing problems for Fox as a rightsholder. LowKick MMA’s Mike Drakota discussed the idea that this might be about Helwani breaking the news last Friday that a Conor McGregor -Nate Diaz rematch is “in the works” for UFC 200, and, from the outside, that might be a possibility. As that event still isn’t finalized (although it seems to be drawing closer) and is such an important one for the UFC, it’s easy to see UFC executives potentially upset that Helwani was able to break that long before they were ready to announce it. If that does have anything to do with Helwani’s departure, though, it would raise big questions about Fox’s ability to honestly cover the UFC.
At this point, that seems premature, as we don’t know exactly why Helwani left. Regardless of why he left, though, his departure seems like a significant blow for Fox. UFC has been one of the big ratings successes for them, both from live events and from other coverage, and the presence of a connected insider like Helwani has helped establish them as an important UFC destination. It will be notable to see how they try to replace him. Also, if he has more to say about his exit, his show Monday may be very interesting listening.