Image Credit: © Winslow Townson, USA Today
Let’s be honest. As this week began, we had experienced an ugly few weeks for the sport of MMA.
Do we need to run them down?
Eh, maybe so.
As reported here, an embarrassing spectacle developed at last month’s Nevada Athletic Commission hearings regarding the performance enhancing drug use of Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen. Belfort failed tests and got a title shot, Sonnen failed even more — and seemed to get a job (?).
Next, several incidents of domestic violence came to light, featuring MMA fighters in some horrifying police reports. UFC veteran Josh Grispi was in one case, and Bellator’s War Machine, aka Jon Koppenhaver, in another.
There were some MMA events, sure.
Remember? A 42 year old Cung Le was beaten to a pulp in China. Worse, the undercard was terrible. Sure, these emerging markets are a fun thing to think about, but if the end result is mediocre fighters fighting conservatively, what’s the point?
That night, UFC President Dana White dismissed a cageside judge mid-show, bringing to light huge concerns. Here’s a promoter in the midst of a self described “meltdown” who decides to replace a judge in the middle of an event because the disagree on an outcome. Can he overturn a referee’s call, then? Is it right for judges to be looking over their shoulders, concerned a promoter will dismiss them on the spot for the wrong call? Is it right for the UFC to be their own watchdog? Will a promoter simply change the outcome of a bout next?
(Actually, right now do you want to remember all that?)
What a mess it all seems: the PED issues that we’re still struggling with, and this current MMA climate, with so much power in the hands of so few.
We’re coming up on the end of Summer, but, strangely, it looks like the sun is finally coming out in the MMA world.
Koppenhaver and Grispy, of course, are behind bars awaiting trial. (Grispi was arrested twice in less than a week, Koppenhaver was finally tracked down after a manhunt spanning several states.)
On Tuesday, Dana White admitted his startling mistake at the UFC Macao. The error was described a “breach in protocol,” not to be repeated — and apologies were made to the judge in question. It proves that finally, there’s at least some limit to one man’s power in this sport.
Then yesterday, the UFC’s President of Regulatory Affairs, Marc Ratner, announced that a random, out-of-competition drug testing program would begin being implemented this year.
Ratner told ESPN: “Unannounced blood and urine (testing) is going to happen, hopefully in the next three or four months. When you’re talking about 500 fighters, there are a lot of logistics. Having fighters in foreign countries makes it tougher, but we’re coming up with a plan and (agencies) are making proposals to us in the next two weeks.”
Where were we a year ago? In the midst of the TRT era. But that ended.
Where are we now? Tim Kennedy calls it “the Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire era.” This could change all that. Both of these statements tell us the UFC won’t act alone to end their problems, too.
It’s a new day. Maybe the current MMA scene isn’t ideal.
But, maybe morning is breaking.