For his first E:60 (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN) feature story, ESPN MMA host and reporter Ariel Helwani went big. As in, 5-foot-11, 264-pound big.
Helwani’s enthralling 20-minute profile of UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier comes one week before Cormier faces Stipe Miocic in the main event of UFC 241 on Saturday, Aug. 17., exclusively on ESPN+.
Helwani called Cormier one of the most accessible and down-to-earth athletes he has ever met. Even so, discussing deeply personal topics with someone – Cormier’s 3-month-old daughter died in a car accident – is never easy.
When you’re about to ask about a tragedy. . . you have to build up to it. Just like in your daily life: You would never just come out and ask someone at a dinner party about something like that. – Helwani
“When you’re about to ask about a tragedy like that you have to build up to it,” Helwani said. “You have to read the subject’s mood and demeanor. Just like in your daily life: You would never just come out and ask someone at a dinner party about something like that. You build their trust first, make sure they are comfortable and then carefully and respectfully cross that bridge together.”
Viewers will instantly recognize the feelings of both trust and respect shared between Cormier and Helwani, a Syracuse University graduate who has covered the sport since 2006 and is a nine-time “MMA Journalist of the Year” award winner.
“I didn’t think I could respect Daniel more than I did going into this piece, but my respect for him definitely grew after spending a few days with him in his adopted hometown of Gilroy, Calif.,” Helwani said. “It was fascinating seeing him work with the kids on his former high school wrestling team and also spending time at his home with his family. These are sides of Daniel I had never seen before and I enjoyed seeing that.”
Helwani, who joined ESPN 14 months ago, said it had been his goal to do an E:60 profile on Daniel Cormier and he hopes this story won’t be his last for the award-winning show.
“I’m a longtime fan of E:60 and I thought his story was perfect for it,” Helwani said. “So, going through the whole process from pitching it to [executive producer] Andy Tennant and [coordinating producer] Carolyn Hong to working with producer Dan Lindberg and associate producer Chris Tumminello was a real joy for me. The team is incredibly talented and hard-working, and I was honored to be a small part of it. I hope I get to do it again soon.”