UFC KO leader has major reservation about new drug testing program

One of the UFC's longest tenured veterans isn't quite so willing to celebrate the end of the USADA era.

By: Nate Wilcox | 2 months ago
UFC KO leader has major reservation about new drug testing program
Matt Brown celebrates his KO over Court McGee at UFC Charlotte. | Matt Davies / ZUMA Wire, IMAGO

Matt Brown is not only the record holder for most KOs in UFC history (tied with Derrick Lewis) with 13, he’s also one of the most outspoken and brave fighters on the roster.

So when the UFC announced they were cutting ties with long-time drug testing partner USADA and bringing in retired FBI agent George Piro, Brown spoke up.

Matt Brown didn’t love everything about UFC’s USADA presser

Jeff Novitzky, Senior Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance for the UFC, and Chief Business Officer (and former General Counsel) Hunter Campbell held a presser this week to announce their new Drug Free Sport initiative and the hiring of Pirot.

While some fighters, like Jon Jones and Paulo Costa celebrated the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s split from their former drug-testing partner, welterweight KO king Matt Brown was left with a few reservations. In a recent interview with MMA Fighting’s The Fighter vs. The Writer podcast, Brown explained why he wasn’t completely in love withe the UFC’s big news.

Here’s what Matt Brown had to say

“What I watched of that press conference, that was probably the one thing that turned me off the most,” Brown said, speaking of the UFC’s announcement that former FBI agent George Piro would oversee their new program. “So the UFC decides George Piro’s in charge. Nobody else has any say. The UFC decides this. Then when they ask about his credibility and integrity and everything, their answer is basically, ‘Trust me, bro.’ I just didn’t like that.”

“All I hope with the whole thing — and unfortunately we can all only hope, because again we don’t have collective bargaining and we don’t really have a say in all this — what we have to hope is that it is as fair as it can be,” Brown said. “That George Piro isn’t helping [American Top Team] athletes with an advantage because he’s training beside them.

“That’s what sucks about it. Even with USADA or before that, you’re going in there just hoping this guy isn’t making enough money or has the means to beat the system. As a fighter, you just have to accept it. Find what your beliefs are and what you want to do with your life and how you want to live your life, and you have to go in and just accept it.”

MMA: UFC Fight Night - Charlotte - Brown vs McGee May 13, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Matt Brown (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Court McGee (blue gloves) in a welterweight bout during UFC Fight Night at Spectrum Center. Charlotte Spectrum Center North Carolina USA, EDITORIAL USE ONLY PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY 20230513_gma_db2_0106
Jim Dedmon / USA TODAY Network, IMAGO

Who is George Piro

At their presser, when asked about their new hire, UFC brass seemed insulted when asking about Piro and independent oversight, “To even think that he would go against the principles and values … and make decisions for financial reasons or business purposes, you haven’t done your homework on George Piro.”

So, Bloody Elbow’s Zach Arnold did his homework on Mr. Piro and his law enforcement background which he says “tells an incredibly unique story that only piques our curiosity as to why he was hired by UFC.”

We’ll post that on Bloody Elbow tomorrow but you can read it now on our Substack site.

USADA CEO outlines problems with new UFC system

The split with USADA was apparently quite heated and dramatic and a long time coming. Noted expert in professional corporate conduct Dana White says USADA boss Travis Tygart’s behavior crossed several lines.

Dana White says Tygart went full Britney Spears

“This guy went full Britney Spears and lost his mind,” Dana White said at a recent UFC presser (transcript via MMA Junkie). “Get ready, you’re probably going to see this guy on Instagram dancing with knives, probably in the next two weeks or something. He went nuts. He lost his mind, and it is what it is. It’s whatever.”

Whatever may have happened on the call, here’s what Tygart had to say about the UFC’s new drug testing style, using separate agencies for sample collection and testing and oversight rather than hiring one consistent partner like USADA.

USADA and UFC anti-doping program logo

Tygart on UFC’s new system

“[Drug Free Sport International], for example,” Tygart noted, stating the kind of company that’s “willing to run any kind of program, whether it has credibility or not.” “And then they’ll probably try to subcontract out with a laboratory, and then UFC likely will handle all the results will be my guess. So they’ll bring it in-house and control every aspect to it: Who’s tested, what’s tested for, at what times they’re tested, send out collectors to go test it. I don’t know, but that’s my prediction for sure.

“That’s not a model that comes close, probability-wise and effectiveness-wise. But that’s the model you can control and get the results that you want when you want them, without the same level of openness and transparency and independence that our program provides.”

Given the UFC’s history and the complete lack of input or leverage on the part of the fighters, Matt Brown’s concerns might be very justified.

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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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