Usada ends UFC partnership over ‘untenable’ Conor McGregor situation

McGregor has returned to the agency’s drug-testing pool ahead of an in-ring return – but Usada expressed its discomfort with the saga

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Friday 13 October 2023 07:21 BST
McGregor Forever trailer

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) will end its partnership with the UFC in January after Conor McGregor’s return to its testing pool this week, claiming that the saga has made the organisations’ relationship ‘untenable’.

Usada announced on Wednesday (11 October) that McGregor had re-entered its testing pool, as the former champion prepares for his first fight since July 2021, when he suffered a broken leg in a second straight loss to Dustin Poirier.

In order to compete in the UFC, athletes must have been in the pool for six months while returning zero positive test results and at least two negatives. That means McGregor’s earliest possible return date is in April, but Usada admitted that it would not be able to ensure that the Irishman serves the full six months, because it will not be renewing its partnership with the UFC in January.

Usada clarified that the move was the result of its discomfort with the McGregor saga, after the UFC and the fighter suggested earlier this year that Usada might grant the 35-year-old an exemption to facilitate an earlier in-ring return.

“We can confirm that Conor McGregor has re-entered the Usada testing pool as of Sunday 8 October 2023,” said Usada CEO Travis Tygart in a statement. “We have been clear and firm with the UFC that there should be no exception given by the UFC for McGregor to fight until he has returned two negative tests and been in the pool for at least six months. The rules also allow Usada to keep someone in the testing pool longer before competing based on their declarations upon entry in the pool and testing results.

“Unfortunately, we do not currently know whether the UFC will ultimately honor the six-month or longer requirement because, as of 1 January 2024, Usada will no longer be involved with the UFC Anti-Doping Program.

“Despite a positive and productive meeting about a contract renewal in May 2023, the UFC did an about-face and informed Usada on Monday 9 October that it was going in a different direction. We are disappointed for UFC athletes, who are independent contractors who rely on our independent, gold-standard global program to protect their rights to a clean, safe, and fair Octagon. The UFC’s move imperils the immense progress made within the sport under Usada’s leadership.

“The relationship between Usada and UFC became untenable given the statements made by UFC leaders and others questioning Usada’s principled stance that McGregor not be allowed to fight without being in the testing pool for at least six months.

“Fighters’ long-term health and safety –­ in addition to a fair and level playing field – are more important to Usada than short-term profits at the expense of clean athletes. Usada is proud of the work we’ve done over the past eight years to clean up the UFC, and we will continue to provide our unparalleled service to UFC athletes through the remainder of our current contract, which ends 31 December 2023.

“As always, we will continue to uphold the rights and voices of clean athletes in all sport.”

Click here to subscribe to The Independent’s Sport YouTube channel for all the latest sports videos.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in