News of the UFC’s apparent upcoming split with drug testing agency USADA has sent ripples through the MMA world. The promotion’s drug testing partner seemingly dropped a bomb on Wednesday, when they revealed that they would no longer be partnering with the UFC come January 1st, 2024.
What’s more, USADA laid the cause of the separation squarely at the feet of the UFC and their treatment of Conor McGregor, stating that reactions from key UFC figures to USADA’s insistence on a 6-month testing window for the combat sports superstar had made it clear that the business partnership between the two companies could not continue.
“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,” an official press release posted on the USADA website reads.
UFC CEO Dana White responds
Never one to take it lying down, UFC CEO Dana White unsurprisingly had a brief, but strong response to USADA’s willingness to air their grievances with the UFC’s business out in public in a recent appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. For White, it sounds like whatever differences of opinion there were on the UFC’s handling of McGregor, it should have stayed behind closed doors.
“Well, let me just start with this,” Dana White hedged, when asked if the UFC was preparing to find a new drug testing partner. “It wasn’t an announcement [by the UFC]. It was a dirty move by [USADA]. There was no announcement yesterday. That was straight up scumbag-ism, what happened yesterday.”
“So, that will all be addressed today,” White added. “Not by me. I’ll let [UFC ‘drug czar’ Jeff Novitzky] and our lawyer Hunter Campbell handle that. The you-know-what is about to hit the fan on that one.”
What exactly that latter, cryptic message means remains to be seen. Could the UFC be getting ready to sue USADA over their press release? From USADA’s standpoint, it appears their decision to make this kind of bold public statement was kicked off by a recent episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast, where the UFC commentator had some not so glowing thoughts about the agency’s work.
Is this all Joe Rogan’s fault?
While he may have got his first jolt of fame as a TV actor and his second as the go-to play-by-play man for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Joe Rogan has reached astronomic levels of notoriety and fortune for his work as the host of the Joe Rogan Experience, podcast. A long-winded, long-running show that features Rogan diving into any and every topic imaginable with the knowledge base of a self-confessed “****ing moron.”
It’s no surprise then that he had a strong take about USADA recentlym and their position as a potential roadblock for Conor McGregor.
“Then there’s a six-month period USADA has to test them randomly, which I think the USADA thing’s a mistake,” Rogan said in a September episode of his show (transcript via Sports Illustrated). “I really think [the UFC] 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 ****ing insane, for world title fights, ****ing insane.”
USADA’s press release didn’t mention Rogan’s name, but it did seem to specifically point to his statements as a key point of contention.
“One UFC commentator echoed this,” USADA stated, speaking of perceived distrust of the agency from UFC brass, “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 of injuries simply to get back in the Octagon.”
I’m sure Dana White doesn’t feel Rogan’s opinion and USADA’s response are at all equivalent, given that the longtime UFC commentator isn’t in any way a decision maker for the promotion and didn’t make his statements while performing on a UFC broadcast. However, as the company’s most noted contractor, the man’s words carry an obvious amount of heft within the UFC community and the potential to shape opinion and reputation.
Clearly USADA felt a need to push back against a potential narrative that they were stopping what a more fair/levelheaded process would allow. The result of their decision to respond publicly, however, appears to have kicked up one hell of a hornet’s nest. What the eventual fallout will be is anyone’s guess.
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