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Journalism Showcase: Okamoto Explores Masvidal’s Miami Roots as ESPN+ PPV of UFC 244 Brings Him to the Brink of Being “The Baddest”

ESPN's MMA Insider explains his storytelling approach to this profile of the one-time backyard brawler taking on Nate Diaz on Saturday

By the time Saturday night’s ESPN+ PPV presentation of UFC 244: Masvidal vs. Diaz from Madison Square Garden reaches the main event between No. 3-ranked welterweight Jorge Masvidal (34-13) and No. 7-ranked Nate Diaz (21-11), fans will have had the opportunity to meet both fighters through in-depth coverage and extensive features from Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto and Marc Raimondi.

WATCH UFC 244: Masvidal vs. Diaz On ESPN+ PPV

  • Saturday, Nov. 2, Madison Square Garden
  • Early prelims: ESPN+, 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Prelims: ESPN2 and on the ESPN App (in Spanish) 8 p.m. ET
  • Main card: ESPN+ PPV, 10 p.m. ET

Okamoto’s revealing reporting on Masvidal was the result of time he spent with the athlete in his native Miami and goes a long way in explaining how a Miami backyard (literally) brawler landed on the brink of possibly earning the until-now mythical title of Baddest Fighter in the world – an honor that will be recognized when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson awards the new belt to the match’s victor.

“What happens to [fighters] outside of the Octagon, impacts and influences and directly leads to what happens to them inside the Octagon,” said Okamoto, who shares more on Masvidal with Mina Kimes on Friday’s ESPN Daily podcast. “I think anytime you go and spend a significant amount of time with someone, you’re not just interviewing them for ten minutes. You are going to get to know them, and you’re going to inevitably start talking about that outside of the cage stuff that has shaped everything that you saw on television or an arena when they are actually competing.”

Alisa Harrison’s Road to ESPN MMA Production

Alisa Harrison
(Melissa Rawlins/ESPN Images)

ESPN MMA producer Alisa Harrison is a former hockey player at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) who, three months after graduating, joined the ESPN NEXT leadership development program. Now she’s part of the team producing UFC 244.

How are you preparing for UFC 244?
My role during fight week is producing our studio shows that are supporting the UFC events. This week we have an incredible lineup. For example, in Monday’s Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show, we featured an interview with rapper and culinary personality Action Bronson, shot and edited by content producer Alex Gonzalez, walking through the streets of Brooklyn while discussing Action’s love for MMA and previewing UFC 244. On Wednesday, we produced Ariel and the Bad Guy and had some Halloween fun with Chael Sonnen and Ariel dressing as each other as they debated the top headlines of the week.

Ariel Helwani and Chael Sonnen switch personalities for Halloween.

What’s unique about UFC 244 from other events you have worked on?
This fight is arguably the most anticipated fight of the year and we have been able to capitalize on that excitement from a story-telling standpoint. For example, our associate producer, Addison Walton, produced a Diaz feature at MSG with Ariel Helwani where Nate Diaz talked about how far he has come in his career.

– Molly Mita

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