Manager Bans ESPN From Interviewing UFC Champions Due to ‘Corruption’

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Getty UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov poses for photos during the UFC 229 Press Conference at Radio City Music Hall on September 20, 2018 in New York City.

Dominance MMA manager Ali Abdelaziz, who represents many UFC fighters including lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, has “banned” ESPN from speaking with his signed fighters, according to a Twitter post from Abdelaziz. The manager invoked the ban after claiming that one of the reporters is “targeting” Abdelaziz’s champions.

Abdelaziz wrote: “All @espnmma you have been banned from talking to any Dominance fighters because you have a reporter who’s targeting my champions. You need an immediate investigation for corruption today.”

The reporter in question is ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. Helwani and Abdelaziz have been butting heads for years, and the manager has taken issue with Helwani’s analysis after Saturday’s UFC 251.

Usman defended his welterweight belt on July 11 when he defeated Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision. Usman was supposed to fight No. 1 ranked Gilbert Burns, another fighter signed by Abdelaziz, however, the fighter tested positive for COVID-19 a week before his fight. Burns was replaced by Masvidal.

After Usman’s victory, Helwani took to Twitter and wrote that a match between Burns and No. 4 ranked Leon Edwards should determine the next contender for Usman. Abdelaziz contends that Burns should receive the title shot as he is the number one contender and was already booked to fight Usman.

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The Last Straw for Abdelaziz Was Seemingly Helwani’s Latest Video on Burns vs. Edwards

On Wednesday, Abdelaziz also tweeted: “I love what @espnmma brings to the table. They have great reporters Brett [Okamoto], Marc Raimondi, Jeff Wagenheim. I have no issue with these guys but enough is enough.”

Seemingly the last straw for Abdelaziz was Helwani’s latest take on the welterweight division. During a Monday episode of DC and Helwani, the journalist and former UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champ debated who should receive the next shot at the welterweight title. In the video, Helwani defended his stance on wanting a No. 1 contender bout between Burns and Edwards, who is on an 8-fight win streak.

Helwani shared the clip on Twitter with the caption: “The disrespect [Leon Edwards] continues to receive might very well be unlike anything I’ve ever seen covering MMA. And I’m not even saying he should fight for the belt next! Ha! Just a no. 1 contender fight for a guy on an 8 fight winning streak. How dare I!?!”

After Helwani shared the clip, Abdelaziz dropped the ban bomb on ESPN.

Helwani Argues That Edwards Shot at Becoming the No. 1 Contender Was Derailed By COVID-19

On Monday’s DC and Helwani, the journalist further explained his analysis of the situation.  He believes it’s only fair for Burns and Edwards to compete against each other because Edwards’ chance of becoming the No. 1 contender was derailed by COVID-19 early in the pandemic.

Edwards, who is from the UK, was scheduled to fight then-No. 1 ranked contender Tyron Woodley on March 21. The fight fell through, however, after international travel was halted due to the rise of the coronavirus. Edwards has not competed in the Octagon since.

Burns received a shot against Woodley, and the two fought on May 30. Burns won the match by unanimous decision and he was officially elevated to the No. 1 contender spot. The UFC then granted him the shot against Usman.

Helwani believes that because Edwards lost out on his shot at becoming the top contender, he should have a chance to earn the spot by fighting Burns.

DC did not agree with Helwani, stating that Burns should receive the shot as he was already booked to fight Usman and then tested positive for COVID-19. The former double champ believes that Edwards should fight another top contender next, specifically Jorge Masvidal.

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