An insider just pulled back the curtain on the world’s most powerful MMA promotional company, at least in terms of how some of its most important decisions are made. Ariel Helwani is one of the most influential media members in sports, and the famed journalist revealed via social media just how often the UFC threatens its champions behind the scenes with the idea of stripping them of their titles.
Perhaps the revelation is just happenstance, or maybe it’s because Helwani is no longer employed by the UFC’s main television partner in the United States, ESPN. Whatever the case, Helwani used the latest UFC controversy about what the company decided to do with UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou as an impetus to reveal new and interesting details about how the UFC handles its affairs.
Helwani posted, “Regarding today’s interim news, you’d be shocked how often they threaten this &/or how often they threaten to strip. And while most of the criticism has been directed towards Dana White – he is the face after all – it’s really been the M.O. of Hunter Campbell since he took over.”
He continued, “For those that don’t know, [Hunter] Campbell is the UFC’s chief business officer. He took over shortly after the sale. He does most, if not all the deals these days. Some love him – he’s a lot more like Lorenzo [Fertitta] in that he isn’t emotional – but he also threatens to strip constantly.”
Helwani continued, “Campbell is the ‘lawyer’ White often refers to. Hardly ever mentions him by name. Not sure why. He’s way more valuable to UFC than just being a lawyer. In fact, I’d argue he’s the third most important person in the company behind Ari [Emanuel] and White. Again, he does all the big deals.”
Emanuel is CEO of the UFC’s parent company, Endeavor, so that would make Campbell a very powerful figure behind the boss of his boss, White.
Helwani continued revealing more information about Campbell. He posted, “Think of him as the UFC’s general manager if they were a sports team. Yet, he never speaks publicly or has to explain moves like a GM would from time to time. Good gig! Anyway, some enjoy dealing with him but this is right up his alley. It happens way more than fans think.”
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Controversy Rages in UFC Community
Controversy rages right now in the UFC community over how the company decided to offer an interim heavyweight championship over waiting for the return of current UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou who just fought three months ago.
According to ESPN, the UFC wanted to book Ngannou vs. Derrick Lewis on August 7, and it balked when Ngannou’s team wanted to fight the following month instead.
So the UFC booked Lewis vs. Cyril Gane for interim gold at UFC 265 on August 7 in Houston.
While the move shocked some fans and media, Helwani used the moment to point out that this is actually how the UFC handles things all the time.
In fact, when a fan posted the idea that the UFC would never have pulled the same move on its previous heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic, Helwani disagreed.
He posted, “I can think of at least five occasions they threatened to strip Stipe. Never went through with it, but he got it worse than anyone.”
Regardless, it can at least be said that Miocic seemed to go way longer between his title defenses without having to deal with an interim champion being crowned in the division than Ngannou has.
The previous champ fought just once each year over the last three years, and now the new champ is being hurried back in half the time.
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Much Ado About Nothing?
Still, the end result of the UFC’s big decision about Ngannou might actually be much ado about nothing.
After all, crowing an interim champion doesn’t take Ngannou’s belt away from him at all.
Besides, aren’t interim titles mostly just used as promotional tools?
Selling tickets to watch Lewis fight in his adopted hometown of Houston is easy enough for the UFC, but selling them with UFC gold on the line is a piece of cake.
Regardless, no matter what happens between Lewis and Gane at UFC 265, Ngannou will still remain the UFC’s heavyweight champion at the end of that fight, and the winner would still have to get through him for the legit crown.
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