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MMA: Random drug testing in the UFC would be costly and complicated

Finding a solution to ensure fighters are clean is not easy

UFC pound-for-pound king, Jon Jones, fights Glover Texeira who is on a 20 fight win streak at the end of this month at UFC 172. Last week it came to light that Both Jones and Texeira had been drug tested by the Maryland Athletic Commission, providing both blood and urine samples. Jones has been requesting random drug testing for this fight over the last couple of months through his management, and the UFC are seeming to comply. Neither Jones nor Texeira has ever tested positive for banned substances in the past.

In a statement made to ESPN, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta stated “"The Maryland State Athletic Commission decided to conduct random drug testing for our event in Baltimore. We fully support their efforts and agreed to cover all the expenses related to the program."

Many in the media have been shouting from the roof tops for the UFC to employ random drug testing across all their fighters, however there are various pitfalls. The UFC is governed by the commissions in which their events are held. They have offered to comply with and pay for any drug testing that a particular commission wishes them to use. They will not, however, take it upon themselves to randomly select fighters out of competition, at great financial costs, to ensure they are clean. 

Georges St Pierre was pleading to use VADA (Voluntary Anti Doping Association) testing for his title fight with Johny Hendricks last year, yet the UFC weren’t prepared to do so due to the Nevada State Athletic Commission not deeming it necessary. 

It is very easy for onlookers to criticise the UFC's seeming reluctance to clean their sport up off their own back and insisting on random drug testing of all their fighters. It is, however, not that straight forward. With each state and country having different requirements and different opinions on various anti doping organisations and testers, it is certainly not blindingly obvious what the correct move is. 

It does seem that the UFC is making moves in the right direction. They have followed the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) in banning the use of TRT and now this latest compliance with and even the funding of the Maryland Commission’s request. It is important for UFC commentators and fans to be realistic. The UFC currently have around 500 fighters on contract. To make a comparison, only the top 50 ATP players on the mens' tennis tour are required to submit their locations in advance to be subject to random testing. The point here is that, it will only be those fighters at the top that will ultimately have the money spent on ensuring they are clean. Encompassing all fighters is too costly and unrealistic. There is no doubt that more needs to be done, but just how that happens and what that means is as of yet unclear. PED’s are most effective during training camps to aid with building muscle density, injury prevention and recovery, so just testing fighters post fight is certainly not enough.

It is important to remember that this is the fight game. The participants are not looking to hit home runs, or run a tenth of a second faster, but they are trying to hurt their opponent. A fighter on PED’s is, to all intents and purposes, a fighter with an additional and potentially lethal weapon. As the UFC and other sports look to minimise PED usage, we must look on understanding the complications involved and hoping for some sort of a solution. Watch this space. When the UFC have spent their own money in the past, it has rarely failed! Except, of course, with their efforts to have MMA legalised in New York. 

Next Friday Garry Cook and the rest of the UFC EMEA team host their second event of the year in Abu Dhabi. The main event features heavyweights Roy Nelson and Minotauro Nogueria along with an exciting undercard. The Middle East will become a huge market place for MMA growth. Expect all the bells and whistles of a UFC event as ever.