Ariel Helwani Snaps Back at Dana White Over His Report on UFC Saudi Arabia Postponement: ‘It’s an Ego Thing’

Ariel Helwani responds to Dana White

Renowned MMA journalist Ariel Helwani has once again found himself in a pissing contest with Dana White.

Earlier this month, Helwani reported that the UFC’s anticipated debut in Saudi Arabia, originally scheduled for March 2, was being pushed to June after Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the country’s General Entertainment Authority, was not pleased with the card being put together by White and his matchmakers.

During his appearance at the UFC 297 post-fight press conference, White called the report “total b*llshit” and a “straight-out f*cking lie,” claiming that it was he who opted to push the event back in hopes of delivering a much better card for the promotion’s debut in Riyadh.

Helwani took a few moments to respond to the UFC CEO’s claim on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour.

“He’s essentially confirming my report,” Helwani said. “He’s saying it wasn’t good enough. He’s saying he wasn’t happy with the card and so he decided to move it. So ultimately, it’s a bit of an ego thing. It’s like, ‘No, no, no. I decided to move this. No one told me because no one tells me what to do. I decided to move it.’

“Over the last five or so years, has the UFC done anything like this? Have they said, ‘Oh, this card isn’t good enough, we’re moving it.’ No. They make lemonade out of lemons. They make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t. They make it happen. Fights were signed. People had reported them, but [the UFC] hadn’t officially announced anything. That is how it went down. Even Jairzhinho Rozenstruk (who was scheduled to fight Shamil Gaziev at the event) told me about this. He tweeted the same thing. His manager tweeted the same thing.

“Things were happening. Fights were signed, but ultimately, the powers that be in Saudi Arabia said this card isn’t good enough. Let us live to fight another day and push this to June when they’re doing other big events.”

Ariel Helwani is Not Trying to be ‘A Thorn’ in the side of Dana White

During a recent interview with DAZN, Alalshikh revealed that he has spoken to the UFC about booking Conor McGregor for the recently rescheduled event, or another future UFC Saudi card. It’s hard to imagine the UFC putting its prized cash cow on a Fight Night card but with the Saudis reportedly paying $20 million to bring in the Las Vegas-based promotion, it’s probably safe to assume that they, and not Dana White, are the ones calling the shots.

“This is all just spin,” Helwani continued. “He’s essentially saying what I told you. The card wasn’t good enough. He’s just saying it was his call as opposed to their call because he doesn’t want it to seem like anyone is telling them what to do. This is unique because Saudi Arabia are the only ones out there who can do this sort of thing because they’re paying $20 million, as it’s been reported, to have these cards. Given that investment, they want a certain standard.”

The event initially set to emanate from the Saudi Arabian capital included the return of undefeated flyweight prospect Muhammad Mokaev, and a middleweight scrap between Eryk Anderson and Jamie Pickett.

“[Dana White] knows who reported it,” Helwani added. “That bothers him. I’m not trying to be a thorn. I’m just trying to report the news. I reported the news not happening, being moved because it wasn’t good enough.”