UFC splits with USADA amidst Conor McGregor controversy

The UFC has elected to part ways with the USADA just in time for Conor McGregor to return to competition.

By: Nate Wilcox | 2 months ago
UFC splits with USADA amidst Conor McGregor controversy

UFC and USADA part ways just as Conor McGregor comes back

The UFC has “informed USADA (The US Anti-Doping Agency) on Monday, October 9, that it was going in a different direction” according to a statement released on the organization’s web site.

This is certainly some interesting timing given that Dana White just announced that superstar Conor McGregor had submitted paperwork to USADA asking to return to the testing pool a few days ago.

UFC announcer clarifies a few things

ESPN’s Phil Murphy tweeted the obvious question: “If the target for Conor is late Q1 2024 and USADA are out Jan 1, why even re-enter the pool?”

Ultimate Fighting Championship announcer Brendan Fitzgerald replied, “Because the drug program is in place. Our contract with USADA goes until end of year. If he wants back within 6 months, has to start now under current rules and continue w/ UFC program into 2024 until fight.”

When Murphy followed up with, “Confirming: had he opted not to re-enter this week — e.g. he knocks on the door at UFC HQ in mid-January — he could not have fought in April?”

Fitzgerald replied, “Correct. Still 3rd party independent testing, just not paying for the USADA name tag. Needed to start now to fight in April.”

Fitzgerald followed up with, “USADA just lost a big client and a lot of money, so they’re a bit salty. UFC drug program remains in place… just not paying a middle man.”

There’s been a lot of weirdness around Conor McGregor’s USADA application

Bloody Elbow readers won’t be surprised to see the drama surrounding Conor McGregor’s return to the drug testing pool following his horrific leg break loss against Dustin Poirier at UFC 264 in July 2021. We spent much of 2022 trying to determine if McGregor was in the USADA pool or not.

As our own Trent Reinsmith asked at the time, “if McGregor is in the USADA testing pool, is he getting special treatment from the Ultimate Fighting Championship? Because let’s not forget, UFC president Dana White has said of McGregor, ‘Conor McGregor has been that guy since the day that he walked into this ——— company. So for anybody to point the finger and say, “Oh, this guy’s getting special treatment…” (Because) This guy’s special. This guy’s ——— special.’

“If he is in the testing pool, he is currently the only UFC fighter who has not been tested in 2022.

“If McGregor is out of the testing pool, then the Ultimate Fighting Championship needs to address why he is still in the rankings as an active fighter. Because if McGregor has notified USADA of his retirement or that he is going on hiatus, then he should’ve been removed from the rankings like the other fighters that went through that process.”

When it became clear earlier this year that McGregor had indeed left and not returned to the USADA testing pool it raised a lot of questions about his potential bout against fellow The Ultimate Fighter coach Michael Chandler.

As we reported at the time, “The expectation is that McGregor will face Chandler before the end of 2023 inside the octagon. However, to make that fight, McGregor must either be eligible for six months of USADA testing or the Ultimate Fighting Championship must issue him an “exceptional circumstances” waiver to forego that six months of testing eligibility.”

The announcement that the Ultimate Fighting Championship has parted ways with USADA adds new significance to McGregor’s comments from earlier this year that “USADA is done.”

Did Mystic Mac know something about internal UFC decision-making or was he just posting out of his ——? I doubt we’ll ever know.

Full statement from USADA on their split with the UFC

“We can confirm that Conor McGregor has re-entered the USADA testing pool as of Sunday, October 8, 2023. 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 January 1, 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, October 9, 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. One UFC commentator echoed this, recently declaring that USADA should not oversee the UFC program since we held firm to the six-month rule involving McGregor, and since we do not allow fighters without an approved medical basis to use performance-enhancing drugs like experimental, unapproved peptides or testosterone for healing or injuries simply to get back in the Octagon.

“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 December 31, 2023. As always, we will continue to uphold the rights and voices of clean athletes in all sport.”

Joe Rogan publicly questioned USADA’s role

The “UFC commentator” mentioned in the USADA statement is likely Joe Rogan, who recently said on his podcast that, “”Then there’s a six-month period USADA has to test them randomly, which I think the USADA thing’s a mistake. I really think they should do all that in-house ’cause USADA does stuff like, well they don’t do it anymore, but they were doing stuff like waking guys up at 6:30 in the morning like the day of the weigh-ins and testing them. It was ——— insane, for world title fights, ——— insane.

Rogan continued, “”There’s a real problem where they’re stopping guys from taking things like BPC-157, all that stuff does is let you heal. It’s called body protection peptide 157, body protection compound. It’s a really good peptide for healing injuries. I think athletes should be able to use everything they can, especially in a sport like MMA.”

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About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of BloodyElbow.com. As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

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