FULL DISCLOSURE: I have studied the Martial Arts for decades (yes, plural). Because of that affinity, I love MMA and the sporting organizations that promote this sport.
That said, this great sport has a huge problem recently uncovered by its (arguably) greatest athlete: drug testing or the lack thereof.
UFC 183 — which means the organization has held 183 primary events or pay-per-views — happened the other night. In that stellar event, Anderson Silva (pictured smacking Nick Diaz above) made his highly anticipated return to the Octagon since suffering a gruesome leg break in 2013. The man is easily considered the greatest MMA competitor of all time next to the guy considered the sport’s patriarch: — Bruce Lee. (Yeah, Silva was that good.)
For more than a year, Silva, 39, has been trying to make a comeback and return to his place of supremacy. As in other major sports (e.g., football, baseball, basketball), the older guys usually need a little extra help to sustain their draw. Likewise, the younger guys want an edge but have trouble finding one (e.g., Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon, Joseph Randle).
On that note, UFC’s main event scored a double bust following the fight, with the younger knucklehead Nick Diaz outed for marijuana and older icon Silva pinched for steroids. The former was expected (his 3rd time), but the latter was jaw-dropping news:
“Anderson Silva has been an amazing champion and a true ambassador of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC, in Brazil as well as around the world. UFC is disappointed to learn of these initial results,” read a statement.
Silva tested positive for two performance enhancing drugs: drostanolone and androsterone. This proverbial bloody nose shows that no one is above cheating — and everyone is within an arm’s reach of a needle.
In late 2013, another legend of the sport — former Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre — announced he would be taking an indefinite sabbatical. The reason? Bad policy on drug testing. Here’s what he told Ariel Helwani during his popular MMA podcast, The MMA Hour (via Bleacher Report):
“Personally, I’m not interested in coming back if there’s nothing done in that regard. The only thing I regret now is…I should have (made these demands) before this. Because this has been bothering me for a long time and I never said anything.”
Prior to that revelation in June, Chael Sonnen, an extremely popular Middleweight contender, decided to “retire” from MMA and leave the UFC after 17 years of fighting. Of course, he made that announcement after being popped for a banned substance…for a second time.
The last PPV, UFC 182, involved Light-Heavyweight Champ Jon Jones showing his true colors with his attitude and a tinge of white on his nose. He was busted for cocaine use after the fight thanks to his blood test. Naturally, it was “an experiment” and he “doesn’t have a problem.”
Maybe note — but the UFC clearly does.
Every time a fighter gets busted for illegal contraband or anabolic steroids, respect for the sport takes a hit. These are some of the most physically gifted cats in the world, and they don’t need the stuff — but there they are, looking for the next high or a little extra help for the fight ahead.
Acolytes of classic martial arts, fans of the sport, and the rest of those Affliction-‘smedium’-shirt-wearing dweebs will continue to watch MMA with fervor, but it’s difficult to enjoy it thoroughly until we know those guys are all clean.
Likewise, just when the sponsors adorning the cage are getting bigger (Bud Light, Reebok, etc.), the sport needs to move forward as well.