By Adam Zipple
This year at the 2017 World MMA Awards in Las Vegas, Nev., Ariel Helwani received affirmation for his pioneering journalism. The World MMA Awards presented by Fighters Only magazine were created to honor exceptional performance in the MMA community. Helwani has been named “MMA Journalist of the Year” eight years in a row.
“I want to be the Howard Cosell of MMA . . . one of the voices of [the sport],” said Helwani. “I’d like to think I tell it like it is and I learned that from Howard Cosell himself.”
Ariel Helwani is a Canadian mixed martial arts (MMA) journalist. He is one of the most recognizable faces in mma journalism.
Born in Montreal, Helwani was raised in a traditional Jewish family. In 2004, Helwani moved to Syracuse, N. Y. to pursue a degree in broadcast journalism. With a father from Egypt and a mother from Lebanon, Helwani is the epitome of the American melting pot.
Helwani admittedly had trouble adjusting to college and life in New York. He was an exemplary student despite experiencing severe feelings of introversion.
“It was like a dark cloud. I still feel the effects of it, and I think that’s why I’m so happy now,” said Helwani.
During college, Helwani worked for two radio stations, where he did a two hour MMA/pro wrestling radio show on Saturday mornings.
“I think [the radio show]prepared me for what I’m doing now,” said Helwani. “I was just focused 100 percent on work and studying and just getting past that point, because I knew at the end of the day that things would work out.”
After college, Helwani found a job working in production for Spike. He soon realized that it was not the place for him. He quit after only one week and launched an MMA blog that he later sold to the Washington Media Group.
In 2014, Helwani looked into his crystal ball in an interview and said, “in 10 years, the sport of mixed martials arts is gonna be mainstream, it’s gonna be a big deal.”
He never could have predicted the amount of traction the sport would receive due to pop culture phenomenons like the McGregor-Mayweather fight. The degree of popularity the sport has gained today can be attributed to hard-nosed reporters like Helwani.
Helwani has worked for the best news organizations throughout his career. He has held sports reporting positions with NBC and FOX. He now hosts his own MMA news show, The MMA Hour, something he says he has wanted to do since the ninth grade.
After receiving his eighth consecutive award for “MMA Journalist of the Year,” Helwani said, “I will never take this award for granted, I sincerely love covering this sport and I still can’t believe I get to do this for a living.”