Helwani Defends Stephen A. Smith Against “Silly” MMA Criticisms

MMA journalist Ariel Helwani has spoken out in defense of former ESPN colleague Stephen A. Smith, who has been a polarizing figure when it comes to the coverage of mixed martial arts.

Smith has established himself as one of America’s most well-known sports television personalities. Through his SportsCenter appearances and analysis of sports like basketball, the 54-year-old has amassed a large following, including close to four million on Instagram and over 5.5 million followers on Twitter.

But if there’s one sport that Smith has struggled to find a place in when it comes to the fanbase, it’s MMA.

Since ESPN became the exclusive broadcast partner of the UFC in January 2019, Smith has become a more active pundit in the sport, which has included appearances at some high-profile pay-per-views. Perhaps most notable was his work at UFC 246 in January 2020.

Following Conor McGregor‘s dominant and fast victory over Donald Cerrone, Smith suggested that “Cowboy” quit inside the Octagon, a comment that was disagreed with by color commentator Joe Rogan, sparking a brief social media feud between the two analysts.
While his appearances on UFC broadcasts have remained scarce, they still get fans talking, many of whom do so negatively, as was evident last July at UFC 264 when Smith joined Dominick Cruz and Michael Bisping at the ESPN desk.

But one of Smith’s former ESPN peers believes that he receives underserved slack.

During a recent episode of The MMA Hour, Ariel Helwani, who departed ESPN last year, praised Smith for his kindness and positive attitude. The Canadian also branded the controversy over Smith’s Cerrone comments as “silliness.”

“Stephen A isn’t a bad dude. Stephen A actually would come up to me — like, are his takes off? No, we could debate that. That’s all inconsequential crap,” said Helwani. “Stephen A, for me personally, every time I would see him at the Seaport, on campus, he would go out of his way to be kind to me, to give me props, text me, shout me out — why would I hate that man?

“As far as I’m concerned, Stephen A was a good teammate. Like what? So he spoke about Donald Cerrone, oh wow! Silliness,” concluded Helwani.

Interestingly, Cerrone later came out and admitted that he simply didn’t want to be inside the cage that night against McGregor, seemingly giving credence to Smith’s comments.

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He ended up being right about Cowboy lol


Op - you’re arguably the best contributor On the UG

The fact you post links and the articles shows you’re a man of the people

Keep up the good work


Cowboy took the dive and probably $2M cash at a later date.

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Yeah I give Stephen A Shit for talking like his word is Gospel on literally every subject he talks about including a new sport for him to cover like MMA… but he got that one right haha


The only thing Helwani has been wrong about is Gina.

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Correct AND Thanks


He was right about cowboy though lol, Stephen A gets alot of unnecessary hate, I like the guy and listen to some of the sports commentary he does.

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I dont agree he was vindicated.

That was peak McGregor just doing what he does. McGregor takes you out in a round or 2… Stephen looked up his record and saw he had most finishes in round 2 (probably didn’t even bother watching the fights) and said it ends in round 2… he got it wrong and got upset and cried like a little bitch about it and tried to blame cowboy because he couldn’t take that he predicted the wrong round.

Peak Mcgregor?? LMAO

that was gimme fight with a guy who had been KO’d his last 5 times before fighting Conor. If it wasnt for that gimme then Conor wouldnt have a win since 2016

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Ariel must be getting a kickback here.

That dude is the worst EVER! Any regional scene announcer will do instead please.

He is actually bad for the sport. Brings absolutely nothing to the table.

EPSN: please call to see if Diego, his old coach, Josh K, or even the Bang Bro dude are available to commentate before you settle for way, way, lesser talent again

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Daymit !
SAS is seriously Obnoxious but nose sports

They sure throw around the word “journalist” pretty loosely…

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Stephen A. was correct… we didn’t see enough because as the record now shows.