MMA reporter Ariel Helwani has provided his take on comments made about the sport’s media by former fighter-turned-analyst Josh Thomson.
Last week, news emerged that Bellator will be teaming up with Asia’s Rizin promotion for a blockbuster head-to-head event, set for New Year’s Eve at Japan’s Saitama Super Arena. The main card will see five matches pitting the North American organization’s stars against Rizin names.
While the announcement and subsequent press conference to reveal the matchups drew headlines across MMA media, Bellator’s Thomson went on the offensive against reporters.
On Twitter, “The Punk” called out MMA media in a video, telling reporters that it’s their job to “promote the sh*t” out of the Bellator vs. Rizin card. Thomson also insinuated that media members are afraid to build up cards other than the UFC‘s through fear of having their credentials pulled.
“This right now is up to the media to do their f*cking job,” Thomson said. “Their job is to promote the sh*t out of this. To let everyone know that this is what we’ve all wanted. How quiet are you guys gonna be now? This is your job to promote the sh*t out of the fact that two huge promotions with two extremely talented groups of fighters are mixing up with each other and bringing you some of the best fights you’re gonna see in two of the biggest promotions.
“Are you all just gonna sit back and bite your tongues because you know you won’t get credentialed to the next UFC if you guys cover this and build this up?” Thomson continued. “I just wanna know, I’m calling all of you f*ckers out. I’m calling every single one of you guys out. Are you gonna do your job? Are you gonna talk about these two big promotions, champions versus champions, No. 1 contenders versus another champion?”
After Thomson posted the clip, he received criticism from a whole host of prominent media members and fighters, including UFC welterweight and occasional ESPN analyst Michael Chiesa. “Maverick” insisted that it is down to the promotion to sell the card, not the media.
During a recent episode of The MMA Hour, Ariel Helwani gave his take on the controversial clip. Like many, the Canadian suggested that Thomson has misunderstood the role of the media in sport. He did, however, note that the 45-year-old Californian’s rant would have made a lot more sense had he switched one crucial word.
“I really couldn’t care about anything Josh Thomson has to say, not because of a personal grudge, but if we’re gonna fight these battles every time someone ‘challenges the media,’ we’re gonna be blue in the face,” Helwani said. “I will say this, if you want my feelings. I actually feel like he made one critical error… Had he swapped the word ‘promote’ with ‘cover’, then I think he would’ve had a fine point.
“The problem was, he said promote. Our job is not to promote anything, our job is to cover things. There’s a massive difference between promotion and coverage… our job isn’t to sit here and say, ‘How are we going to promote this card?’ … That’s not what the media’s job is,” Helwani added. “Promoters promote… media companies cover. Big difference. Promotions spend money to promote, to market, to get the word out. We spend money to cover and shine a light.”
Helwani also noted that Thomson’s clip came on the day that the Bellator vs. Rizin card was announced, and also after a number of publications had already reported news of the December 31 event.
The Canadian reporter later touched on the fact that promotions like Bellator don’t receive as much coverage as the MMA leader, the UFC. For Helwani, the reasoning is simple — by and large, it’s better.
“What was so funny about the timing of the clip was that news came out in the morning, and I already saw a ton of outlets report on it,” Helwani said. “I even tweeted about it before I saw the clip… It’s all nonsensical. And of course, what isn’t being said in that clip is he works for Bellator. He’s getting paid by Bellator. He’d never challenge the MMA media to cover a ONE Championship fight, a KSW fight, or a PFL card.
“Yes, there is a point to be had that we all cover UFC more than Bellator, PFL, KSW or ONE. You know why? The UFC product is better than all of them. I’m sorry if that offends anyone, but the UFC product is infinitely better than all of them,” Helwani continued. “So, they don’t need to challenge us to ‘promote’ or ‘cover’ because they’re the top dogs.”
Helwani went on to direct his attention at last week’s Bellator Milan card, and the distinct lack of promotion ahead of and throughout fight week. He also noted that he only had Fabian Edwards, who competed in Italy, on his show at the request of the organization.
With that, he urged the promotion to convince people that its cards should be covered, rather than seeing it as some sort of right. He also firmly dismissed Thomson’s claim that media members are afraid to cover promotions other than the UFC.
“Guess what, make the card better. It’s on them. The real challenge here is what is Bellator gonna do to get the public to care about this? … MMA media’s gonna cover it. What are you gonna do?” Helwani questioned. “And this lazy-ass narrative that media is afraid of covering other promotions… is the biggest bunch of bullshit I’ve ever heard.”
Like many, Helwani also looked to hammer home Thomson’s new place in the sport, outlining that because he’s creating content on YouTube and online, he counts as part of MMA media, so perhaps should be looking closer to home when it comes to his criticisms.
The level of promotion from Bellator has come under scrutiny in recent times, especially with the MMA landscape becoming busier. With that, Helwani pointed out the rise of the Professional Fighters League, insisting that the PFL does a better job of promotion.
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