The world of MMA has blown up over the last decade or so, with the UFC leading the charge. However, dozens of other promotions and organizations have also formed and sought their piece of the market. How does one keep track of everything you might ask? The MMA Hour with Areil Helwani, that’s how!
For those non-MMA fans, or the casual ones, Ariel Helwani is the go to MMA journalist. He’s the guy that Conor McGregor gives a thumbs up to when he takes the stage or gives time to in the back. Fighters, commentators, and trainers seek him out for interviews. A few years ago when I told my friend I wanted to learn more about it he told me “Ariel Helwani. Follow what he writes and says.” It worked.
For more on Helwani and his background, I highly recommend this interview from the Jonah Keri Podcast (also reviewed here). It’s Montreal heavy as both men hail from the city, but it’s great background. Helwani’s not alone though, as his co-host “New York Ric” Eric Jackman also chimes in with his take and what he recommends on occasion.
This is pretty much a straight up interview podcast. He starts each show with a wrap-up of the week’s events in MMA, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, etc. and whatever he feels is newsworthy in that realm. Then come the interviews.
Everyone from reigning UFC champions, to Bellator up-and-comers, to strictly Jiu Jitsu fighters, he covers all the bases of combat sports. While a lot of other outlets speak to the fighters only, Helwani gets their trainers and coaches to dig deeper into strategy, tactics, and preparation. He digs deeper than others, and thus, gets better answers.
The major strength to Helwani’s style, and which sets him apart in my opinion, is his style. A lot of MMA coverage is “Oh man you knocked [enter fighter’s name here]!” or focuses on the trash talk. While Helwani does touch on all aspects, he brings a sense of legitimacy and science to the sport.
However, digging deep does take time. Most shows clock in at over four hours. While it’s a weekly show, dropping every Monday, four hours is still a tall task, especially for casual or new fans. Rarely do I ever have the time to listen to the whole thing.
While it’s a long show, and most of the guests will get hardcore fans excited and leave newcomers scratching their heads, I’d still recommend it for casual fans or people looking to get into the sport. It’s the most in-depth coverage with by far the best journalist in the game.
While the four hours can seem daunting, Helwani recognizes it himself and puts time-stamps in the description of each episode. This allows you to maximize your listening time though, but one more recommendation. Even if you don’t recognize a name, google it, especially on the trainers/coaches. There’s a good chance you’ll learn more in one interview on the MMA Hour than watching FS1 and ESPN’s coverage all day.