“Everybody’s on Steroids” – The Concerning State of MMA
By Jaime C. Feal
During the hype for his first fight against Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz said it best: “Everybody’s on steroids.” Diaz went on to stop McGregor at UFC 196, and then McGregor was pulled from a potential rematch at UFC 200 due to not fulfilling media obligations. That decision by Zuffa brass turned out to be a big error, as their replacement main event between Jon “Bones” Jones and Daniel Cormier fell through when Jones was pulled from the card due to a positive test for PEDs. Cormier went on to beat last minute replacement Anderson Silva in a fight that saw the crowd boo heavily due to a lack of action. Furthermore, the Cormier-Silva fight was demoted to co-main event and a woman’s title fight between Miesha Tata and Amanda Nunes ended up headlining UFC 200. And the return of WWE superstar and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar, the fighter that drew the most viewers, ended up testing positive himself as was revealed by USADA the week after UFC 200. Because of an exemption Lesnar received as a late addition to the card his results did not come back in time to stop him from competing, and he will not be fined by USADA or the UFC for his positive test. Lesnar’s opponent Mark Hunt has publicly demanded he be compensated and has blasted the UFC for “throwing him under the bus.”
To make matters worse, former Featherweight title contender Chad Mendes was popped for a positive test recently and suspended 2 years by USADA, just like Jones was suspended for 2 years. The fighters can appeal their suspensions and try to reduce them, but ultimately the UFC has an enormous problem on their hands with fighters using PEDs before competing against one another in the cage. The timing of the 4 billion dollar sale of the company amidst all the positive tests is also suspect. It could be said that Station Casino and Zuffa owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertita cashed out at the right time.
Not only are fighters getting suspended left and right, but other fighters who are theoretically clean are livid. Then you have superstar fighters like Georges St. Pierre who are prime for a comeback, but have expressed concerns about stepping in the cage against juiced competition. Finally, the fans can’t be happy to see their favorite fighter(s) and sport being tainted by steroids, masking agents, and PEDs. The crisis is similar to the steroid epidemic in the 90s in Major League Baseball where even the biggest superstars were using. Now that the UFC is under new ownership, the new owners and management have a chance to affect immediate change. The sport is inherently exciting, fast-paced, and action-packed. We don’t need to artificially increase the explosiveness of the sport as baseball did with the home run. When you have two athletes competing against each other in a combat sport fairness and safety are of the utmost concern. MMA as a sport has worked hard to become regulated and accepted, and a lot of that work can be undone if somebody is seriously hurt in the cage by an opponent who tests positive for PEDs. This epidemic needs to get cleaned up quickly in the interest of all parties. Let’s hope it does.