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Larry Pepe eviscerates Josh Gross for proposing zero-tolerance UFC policy, says current drug testing procedures are great

By Zach Arnold | October 6, 2010

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Before we get to our main item of the day, here’s a few headlines for you to check out.

Yesterday, three notable matches were bandied about on various news sites: Stefan Struve vs. Sean McCorkle, Shane Carwin vs. Roy Nelson, and Rich Franklin vs. Forrest Griffin. I’m interested in all three of these fights, primarily the Franklin fight. I’ll pick him to win that fight, but I think it will be a great stand-up battle. As far as the Carwin/Nelson fight is concerned, that’s a fascinating fight for one reason — if it goes to the ground, Nelson will tear him apart. If Nelson’s chin remains as good as it was in the Junior Dos Santos fight, Carwin will have his hands full.

275,000 PPV buys for UFC 119? To me, that sounds just about right. Actually a little bit on the high side, in my book, but about right on target given that card line-up.

Dan Hardy is using criticism on MMA message boards to fuel his spirits for the upcoming UFC 120 fight against Carlos Condit.

The Bismarck Tribune has an interview with Dane Sayers, who is on TUF 12. For the TUF 12 Finale on 12/4, Kendall Grove vs. Demian Maia has been booked. On Wednesday night (Spike TV), the UFC starts their three-part Brocktober series of hype shows to hype up Brock Lesnar’s fight with Cain Velasquez.

Are you buying or selling the December 4th Strikeforce card in St. Louis? Card line-up features Dan Henderson vs. Renato Babalu, Paul Daley vs. Scott Smith, and Robbie Lawler vs. Matt Lindland.

You want to see an MMA fight with two real grizzled veterans? Try Jeff Monson vs. Travis Fulton on October 23rd in Pompano Beach, Florida. The fight will happen as a lead-in at Club Cinema, which will show the UFC Anaheim event later on that evening.

Josh Gross is defending his position that UFC should cut fighters who fail drug tests. He definitely took a stance that not a lot of people agree with, but I’m glad he made his case. His logic may sound draconian to many, but I understand what his general thinking is. If you believe, like most people do, that Zuffa is the only major player in the industry (and they certainly do like to act like they are “the sport” at times), then the only way fighters will respond to matters like using PEDs is if there’s a great fear that they could lose their job with the UFC and lose out on making a lot of money because of getting cut after a drug testing failure.

However, this is not a theory that Larry Pepe of Pro MMA Radio believes in one bit. In a passionate 20-minute segment on his radio show last week, he blasted Josh Gross over his claims about how serious the issue of drug usage is in MMA and the idea of UFC implementing a zero-tolerance drug testing policy. Here is the full transcript.

“The whole issue surrounding steroids in MMA, should the UFC adopt a new policy, should they do more drug testing, should there be zero tolerance… and I have to admit, as I look at this, I think there’s been a tremendous overreaction by the media. Not everybody, of course, you know, like anything, people are going to have different opinions and mine is very different and I’m going to focus one appearance that I heard, it was when Josh Gross went on The Jim Rome Show and made a number of statements that I just can’t agree with and factually/statistically don’t make sense to me. The first of those, you know, he made a comment when asked by Rome how prevalent the drug problem is in MMA. He estimated, and I’m quoting him, ‘I’ve heard estimates anywhere from 30% to 70% opinion. Talking to people in gyms this week, you know, in the wake of the Chael Sonnen thing.” And it’s… that just defies any logic to me, there’s no basis for those numbers. I mean, how can anybody, regardless whether it’s Josh or anybody he spoke to, how can anybody really estimate what % of MMA or UFC fighters are on drugs and it kind of boggles my mind that we hear numbers like this thrown out. Of course, there’s never been any study and if you say well there never would be a study, well The American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation published, released a study in February of ‘09 where 2,552 retired NFL players answered questions on steroid use anonymously, studies like that do take place sometimes and I’m not saying we’re going to have one in MMA. What I am saying is I think it’s irresponsible to put an estimate of that kind of % on what kind of usage is out there when I’ve spoken over the past of couple of weeks with, you know, various fighters, various managers, and I don’t get anything that even remotely approaches that from people’s estimates of things.

“Let’s look at this football study real quick because I think it’s relevant. When that study was done, and keep in mind these guys are retired and this is anonymous and confidential, so I’m not saying everybody’s going to admit to what they did but certainly they don’t have to worry about losing their jobs and apparently the anonymity has been preserved. Even in a study like that, 9.1% was the number and when you got to the positions that really were not the skill positions but more the size, strength, and you know whoever’s heavier, bigger, and stronger is probably going to do better… Offensive Lineman and Defensive Lineman… the percentages were 16.3% for OL and 14.8% for DL. So, you’re telling me that in football where those positions size and strength is everything, the percentage averages out at around 15% but in MMA where size and strength is one factor but, you know, if we understand MMA at all technique, striking technique, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu of course is hardly based on size and strength at all, it’s very skill-based, but in that it’s going to be anywhere from 2 to 4 times as many people using drugs when they know that they’re going to get drug tested or potentially can at the events? To me, it’s patently ridiculous, it really is and when you look at the numbers, let’s get to some facts. The facts are that in 2009 the UFC put on 21 events. In 2010, there have been 18 events so far. So we’re looking at 39 events from ‘09 forward. I went back and looked at the last 7 events where results of drug testing were reported and 92 fighters were tested, so we’re looking at an average of about 13 fighters per event. So, over those 39 events that I just mentioned from ‘09 and 2010, and again rough estimates, 500 fighters, 507 fighters would have been tested. Let’s use the middle ground of Josh’s numbers, let’s use 50% as the number. That means that of those 500, by his accounts an average of 250 of ‘em would have been on drugs. How many failed? One. Chael Sonnen. That’s it. One. One out of 250. Now, if you think that’s just a good year, a good year and a half that the UFC had, as we go all the way back to 2002, I was able to find 10 UFC fighters who have failed drug tests according to a great piece that was on CagePotato.com, I would urge you to go check it out, run a search on their site for drug testing: the ultimate guide or something like that, you’ll find it… 10 fighters in 8 years testing for steroids, performance-enhancing drugs, 10. That’s barely an average of one fighter per year. So, in order to believe that 250 fighters were on drugs yet only one failed, then you have to believe that 249 out of 250 fighters are beating the test or getting extremely lucky, OK?

So, how does Josh think that they’re beating the test? And again, I’m going to quote, ‘I grew up with a buddy who ran high-level track internationally and he says, you know, if you want to do it, you hire an endocrinologist and you can do this stuff and it’s not an issue to get around until and unless they adopt WADA-quality testing.’ Now, to those of you that don’t know, an endocrinologist is a medical doctor, a specialist who deals with hormonal imbalances. So, let’s set the stage. Those other 249 fighters who passed the tests, if this is the way you do it, would have had to walk into a medical doctor’s office and explain that they are illegally taking drugs because it is illegal to take anabolic steroids without a prescription and that they like the doctor to basically put their medical license at risk by helping them defraud the Government because athletic commissions are Government bodies, on a drug test so they can get in a cage and potentially do harm to another human being. That’s the scenario. You’re going to get a medical doctor to help you manipulate these tests, that’s what the medical doctor has to buy into and potentially put their license at risk. I mean, seriously? Are these endocrinologists just out there waiting to help and I would venture to say that there isn’t an endocrinologist in the world who could get 249 out of 250 fighters to pass a drug test. It just… it defies any logic, I mean, I understand that we can all come out and make broad-based statements and wild claims but when you really break the numbers down and break the facts down, we have drug testing. It’s working, I believe, because guys are getting caught. It’s not a scenario where nobody ever gets caught, you say geez, man, there must be something flawed with the tests. And to believe that percentage of fighters is on drugs but somehow they’re all beating the test and I’m focusing on UFC results because everyone seems to be focusing — Josh, other writers as well — on what the UFC should be doing, that the UFC should be doing their own testing, that the UFC should have a zero-tolerance policy so we’re going to look exactly at what’s happened in the UFC and when you look at those numbers, when you look at 10 fighters over 8 years, when you look at the number of fighters being tested… it just doesn’t bare out that we have a problem and it’s pretty wild. If you believe we have a problem and that all these guys are beating the tests, then you also have to believe that either UFC fighters are the most sophisticated group of human beings in the world at beating drug tests or they’re able to get an extraordinary number of doctors all over the country, endocrinologists, to help them manipulate drug tests being done by a Government body and put their medical licenses at risk and in my eyes, not only do we not have a problem, I think we should take out an ad. Any sport should jump up and down if you have 8 years of data and 10 guys failing the drug tests. The UFC should take out an ad and say, hey, put us next to baseball. Baseball’s had 50 failures in the last 5 years. 50. We’ve had 10 in the UFC, I’m talking about Major League Baseball now. Major League MMA, in my eyes, the UFC. We’ve had 10 in 8 years. So, when you really break the facts down and you really look at the numbers, it doesn’t make sense and it’s just sensationalism in my eyes.

“You also have to question why we would go after ourselves. Why? When we’re talking about that the sport should have more mainstream acceptance, it’s a sport that we love, it’s a sport that we know to be safe, it’s a sport where we are trying to overcome mainstream stereotypes… You’re assessing criminal behavior to half of MMA fighters. It is a CRIME to possess anabolic steroids without a prescription. They are a Schedule 2 controlled substance. It’s a misdemeanor to possess them. It’s a felony to distribute them or intend to distribute them. How does this move the sport forward? How does this gain mainstream acceptance? I’m not saying make stuff up to gain mainstream acceptance, but don’t make unsubstantial claims about this huge problem we have in MMA when none of the facts bare that out and by having third-party testing by the Government, there’s less room for error. If the UFC polices itself like a lot of these other leagues and I know we’re not the same but if they police themselves then to me there’s more potential for people to say, ‘Well they’re doing their own drug tests. Of course so and so didn’t fail because they’re not going to fail him because he’s too big of a draw!’ But we have the Government doing the testing. I’m more comfortable making the argument that we have a third-party who doesn’t care who they fail, who has no financial interests in who they fail and, yet, guys are failing and if I’m listening to The Jim Rome Show and I have kids and I hear that 30% to 70% of these fighters are on drugs, I’m not letting my kid go to an MMA gym, I’m not letting my kid train MMA because I’m going to say, hey, I don’t want my kid around that kind of environment and I have to say from my experience with the fighters, I don’t get that at all! I find them to be the hardest working bunch of athletes I’ve ever met and I don’t see it, OK? I might be wrong, I’m not saying I’m 100% right, but I know I’m right about one thing and that’s the numbers and numbers don’t lie.

“Then we move into the zero-tolerance argument. Again I’m quoting, ‘And, you know, I think people like to compare sports and talk about baseball. I got so many people e-mailing me and on my Twitter feed, it’s like who cares if these guys do this, do that. This is not baseball. This is not a game. They’re punching each other in the face. The sport is inherently dangerous.’ YEAH! It’s more dangerous than baseball. It sure as hell isn’t more dangerous than football. If you put the injury reports from NFL weekends next to the injury reports from UFC events, there’s no comparison in the safety of the two sports because in our sport, you don’t have guys who can run 4.3/40s or 4.5/40s at 200+ pounds full speed running into another guy with a helmet on his head that he can, you know, jam into his body. So when you look at the injuries, to me football is inherently, just look at the injury reports, a more dangerous sport physically. So, let’s look at the NFL’s policy since we’re talking, you know, danger vs. danger I think football’s much more dangerous in terms of injuries. NFL first-time you fail, 4 weeks. That’s one-fourth of a season, a quarter of a season. So you still make your money for 75%. 75% of the season you still get paid. Chael Sonnen, let’s use him as the example. He now is a year with no pay, a whole season, a whole calendar year. Not just with no pay but with no sponsorships, with whatever sponsorship deals he has in place at risk. So, where we do get to zero-tolerance? Why does MMA have to have zero-tolerance when in football you have to fail three times to get 12 weeks out? It goes 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks. So even on a third failure you’re still making money for 25% of the season and a lot more money in most cases than what we see MMA guys making because it’s a salary, right? It’s not based on how many sponsorships you can run out and get. So, where we do we get to zero-tolerance? Should we apply zero-tolerance to us, to the media? Should Josh get fired from SI and never be allowed to write for them again if he’s wrong about anything or if he’s wrong about Chael? He referred to Chael as the biggest goat in MMA history, that he set himself up to be the biggest goat in MMA history. What if we find out that it was for a medical reason? What if we find out that there was some mistake with paperwork? What if he we find out, we don’t have any of these facts, yet. So what if we find that out? What if he didn’t put testosterone on his pre-fight form like Josh said on MMA Live? What if any of that is inaccurate? Does that mean he should lose his job? I don’t think it does but I also don’t think that a fighter should lose their ability to fight in the major leagues of MMA for life because they have one failure, one mistake. I don’t live in that world, OK? And there are so many reasons that a guy can fail a test when they may not have intentionally taken anything or may not have been on anything at all. I mean, if you do a little bit of research, you dig a little bit, just look at this California State Athletic Commission. They’ve had a terrible history with drug tests. Two high-profile drug tests, Phil Baroni and Sean Sherk, were both reduced after the fact. Why? Was it because they did everything perfectly and they just were good-hearted that day? NO! You have to believe it’s because mistakes are made. What about false positives? False positives happen with drug tests. With a zero-tolerance policy, that’s it! That’s a wrap, son. You no longer have a career based on a false positive. What about if you go back and listen to the episode we did with Sean Sherk, his attorney (Howard Jacobs) on her and detailed some of the chain-of-custody issues that went on with his drug tests that may have led to a positive. He also detailed complexities of what they have to do with the machine and the equipment that does the drug tests to make sure that if the sample that was in there before your’s came up positive that your test doesn’t accidentally come up positive because of that. Nope. Zero-tolerance, you no longer have a career. What about positives that get triggered from natural products because there are pro-hormones or ingredients in those products that might trigger a positive? What about that? So, we’re just going to toss these guys out and say, hey, you’re in the minor leagues forever when we can’t even really get at the intent 100%? And zero-tolerance is put out there and Josh isn’t the only one advocating it. But it’s put out there because what we have now isn’t a big enough deterrent, he told MMA Live it’s clearly not enough. Not enough?! It’s not enough that a guy’s out for 9 to 12 months with no pay? Estimates for Chael are that by losing the Anderson Silva fight, by not getting that rematch now, he may lose $500,000 to $1,000,000 dollars between his pay and sponsorship deals and endorsements. Sean Sherk, when he came on the show two years ago, said he lost ’several hundred thousand dollars’ with a six-month suspension and he had the title stripped from him. That’s not enough deterrent!? It’s not enough deterrent that guys get raked over the coals in the media, that their name is now associated with drug use for maybe forever at least for a significant period of time? And the majority of MMA fighters don’t make money that compares with other professional athletes like baseball players or football players and like I said before with the NFL, if you have three failures you STILL EARN money for a quarter of the season but we’re supposed to have zero-tolerance all of a sudden? I think the real issue if you’re that disturbed, you believe that we have these huge problem, that the athletic commissions can be more aggressive because they are the ones to test and the athletic commissions, I have a memo in front of me signed by Keith Kizer it was dated May 24th, 2008, the subject is ‘additional steroid and drug testing’ and basically this is a notice that went out to every fighter in Nevada who has a license that the commission can conduct random testing when they see fit for any reason, that they can call a fighter and say you’re testing on this particular day so I guess unless you call your endocrinologist very quickly and get them to manipulate your hormonal levels very quickly, we already have random testing and it has been used. So, to me let the commission do it’s job and this idea of zero-tolerance, it’s crazy to me. Especially when you understand, when you really understand the complexities of drug testing and how you can even have false results or flawed results, to say that a career should be thrown on the heap based on one failure to me is ridiculous. It really is.

“You know, and I have to point out because nobody’s saying it and this isn’t to single Josh out but the facts are the facts and when you look at the facts, when you look at the numbers, when you look at the statistics, you sometimes wonder is this coming from somewhere else? And we have to keep in mind that the history between Josh and the UFC is not a positive one. He was banned from the UFC credential-wise because when he had the results of The Ultimate Fighter 4 show and he gave them out on the air when he did his Sherdog radio show and that didn’t sit well with the UFC as you could imagine so they banned him and there’s a negative relationship there between him and Dana. And at least from a journalistic standpoint have to question, you have to raise the issue whether some of this is motivated by a negative relationship between the parties. I don’t know that it is. I don’t know Josh. I don’t know that he wouldn’t be saying the exact same things whether he was banned or not but you at least have to question that issue. So, I hate to see us, as an industry, raising this huge issue because Chael Sonnen failed a drug test and it just happens to be the first failure we’ve had in about a year and a half and when you average out the last 8 years, we’re looking at 1.25 failures in the UFC for anabolic steroids per year and for me, that’s a record we should be proud of and that’s a record we should publicize, not extrapolate out to a huge problem for which there’s no evidence and there’s no statistical basis to believe. And I’ll leave you with maybe just the ironic icing on the cake but when those 10 fighters failed those drugs, the fight in which they failed their record was 4-6. So, apparently, steroids are not the path to success or victory in the UFC and statistically it looks like a fighters have figured that out already.”

Topics: MMA, Media, StrikeForce, UFC, Zach Arnold | 60 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

60 Responses to “Larry Pepe eviscerates Josh Gross for proposing zero-tolerance UFC policy, says current drug testing procedures are great”

  1. I like that Showtime card. The heavyweight fight sucks and none of the fights mean anything really but it looks entertaining on paper to me in the same way that War on The Mainland was.

  2. David M says:

    I have no idea who Larry Pepe is, but I am a fan. He entirely Ethered Josh Gross, who deserved it for being a jocksniffing fan boy and pretending to be the second coming of Edward R. Murrow.

    • I just breezed through that because I couldn’t read it. If I was listening to it, I’d have turned it off in two minutes. That guy isn’t even using logic to support his positions – he basically says that BJJ isn’t friendly to steroid use because its about skill. Don’t even get me started on his argument that we can’t pursue discussion of more guys than those being caught using because it “criminalizes a large percentage of the sport”.

      • Jason Harris says:

        It’s actually supported by facts, you look pretty silly when you reply without reading what you’re replying to.

        • What is supported by facts? there’s a lot of assertions there. A lot. And most of them are loose and some completely irrelevant. He says nothing about the particulars of the study (which is one of the few “facts” he quotes) and there’s no way to argue rationally how it supports the idea that a minimal number of fighters are using. His whole defense is terrible. All of it. Some parts are downright horrendous – how does he parse the lack of need for steroids with BJJ specialists with Royce Gracie’s positive steroid test? He doesn’t.

        • Just in case you want a particular point made to illustrate this (because I’m not wasting my valuable time on doing a point by point refutation), I’ll point to that study. The NFL has a blanket fashion in which it does drug testing. The UFC does not because of the fashion in which athletic commissions test. Is it more of a deterrent? Not mentioned. If 9.1% of NFL players used steroids in a system where drug testing was much more stringent than in MMA, what reason is there to rationally believe that a similar or smaller number is using steroids in MMA, UFC included? Because BJJ favors technique? That is terrible reasoning. Because it would criminalize the fighters? Maybe they are criminals for the possession and use of these drugs and we’re in denial? Because endocrinologists take a oath? Is this man stupid?

          His argument sucks and would be dismantled with anyone that has an IQ above 75.

        • Bryan says:

          Yeah, I find it pretty amusing that Alan is lambasting Pepe for his lack of factual sources when Gross’ source is clearly just hearsay, speculation, oh, and his buddy that ran track.

          It is a fair statement that size and strength are more important in the NFL than MMA precisely because technique is more important. Chael Sonnen may have cheated (he’s appealing the decision, so we’ll see what evidence to the contrary he presents) but either way, he still lost as a result of poor BJJ technique!

          Not only that but because of the intense physical nature of MMA, building up big muscles for strength can actually be a detriment, in that it leads you to gas out quicker.

          How many of the guys that have tested positive have actually won their fights?

          In the context of MMA, the greatest benefit of steroids would be that it speeds up recovery time. I don’t speak with lots of gyms and fighters but the fighters I know that have taken PED’s did so to get back after an injury, or did a few cycles before they were even close to having their first fight, so “they’d be ready when they got there.”

          And whatever you think of Pepe’s argument, he hit the nail on the head with the endocrinologist point. Most of the guys fighting in the UFC aren’t making impressive money for a sports figure perspective. To think that some 70%, or whatever stat Gross said, are paying a doctor to risk his or her medical license to commit fraud is pretty laughable.

        • edub says:

          Couple things I think you’re overlooking Bryan:

          - Yes Steroids probably would help more in the NFL as opposed to Jiu-Jitsu, but all you have to do is look at Mark Kerr’s win in AbuDhabi to realize it does help. There are other fighters who have always been thought were on steroids that fused that with technique to become monsters in the ring/cage. I could make probably a good 30 fighter list of some great fighters and legends, but it would mostly just be my opinion.

          - Steroids don’t just have to be used for “big muscles”. The recovery factor it gives your body can help out your speed and gas tank immensely, depending on what you take.

          - There are plenty who have won fights who have failed; Royce Gracie, Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia, Sean Sherk…

        • Jason Harris says:

          To distill the points into simple logic

          He states that in a sport where size is much more important and the athletes are in a much better position financially to acquire PEDs, the rate of players who had used (10%) is MASSIVELY lower than these “estimates” of 30-70% these guys are spouting out.

          The fact that it doesn’t make sense that hundreds of MMA fighters are buying designer drugs to beat these tests on a regular basis is somehow lambasted as crazy, but “I heard from some guy that everyone is on PEDs” is TOTALLY TRUE, BROS!? C’mon.

          Let’s see someone come out with some better evidence than what Ken Shamrock heard when he was training MMA with his fat body building coach.

        • Pepe doesn’t even claim any working knowledge of the sport. He doesn’t claim to have spoken with any fighters or camps. Instead, he’s filling in with totally unrelated information.

          Look, the technique aspects of BJJ are great. Same with wrestling or boxing or muay thai. Take that technique and apply it to a body with someone who is using steroids and they’re going to have a physical advantage. Don’t go telling me that raw physical strength doesn’t play a big part in this sport or any related sport.

      • david m says:

        For the record, I agree with Gross in re: scope of the problem, I just am entirely disgusted by his holier-than-thou attitude and callousness towards the fighters. These guys are busting their asses every day trying to make a living, they take tremendous amounts of punishment, and who can blame them for doing whatever possible to make some money and be able to leave the fight game while still intact mentally and physically.

        The idea that fighters should be banned for life for a single positive test is borderline evil.

      • He states that in a sport where size is much more important and the athletes are in a much better position financially to acquire PEDs, the rate of players who had used (10%) is MASSIVELY lower than these “estimates” of 30-70% these guys are spouting out

        Dude, seriously, you are a dumbass. The estimates are for a different sport with different testing criteria. Not to mention the fact that “size is more important” is a ridiculous claim to make to begin with, as if cyclists and sprinters are looking to become hulking monsters. You sound like someone deeply in denial who is willing to hinge on even poorly written non-sequiturs to hold on to what you believe.

    • Jason Harris says:

      Agreed with David M here. People are pulling this “Steroid problem” out of their ass, based off of a few anecdotal comments from guys like Ken fucking Shamrock (How many high level gyms you think he’s seen in the last 10 years?)

      The notion that there are just legions of guys easily breezing through the steroid tests is just the stupidest thing I’ve never heard. The same idiots will argue that guys aren’t getting paid enough, and then the next day argue that all these guys making 5k/5k are on expensive designer steroid programs. There’s no basis for any of it.

      The fact that people are crying out for sweeping changes based on “lol they’re all using steroids lols” is stupid. Yes, if someone has enough inclination and money they can probably beat a drug test, but the idea that hundreds of UFC fighters are all doing it is just completely baseless, and again, the only backing for it most people have is quotes from Ken Shamrock when he’s trying to defend his own positive tests.

      Guys test positive, they get punished by the commission, problem solved. It’s amazing to me how much the MMA community online has tried to make a huge issue out of this.

      It’s also hilarious how many of these people are basically saying “These guys should be sent to Strikeforce” too.

      • Jonathan Snowden says:

        Are you serious? You think Josh Gross can only rely on interviews other people have done with Ken Shamrock to base his opinion on? Gross, like many of us, talk to fighters and people in the industry every day.

        Why does Larry Pepe get a pass for passing on the tired myth that Sherdog lost their credentials over a TUF spoiler?

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Talking to fighters about who is on PED’s is like taking an internet survey on penis size.

          The truth and the portrayed truth are two very different things.

          Really, it doesn’t matter how many people Gross talks to. All you have to do is look at how many PED users in previous sports have denied taking them despite all proof against them…. And it shows that it is a topic that athletes hold very close to themselves and don’t even share with most people around them…. Especially journalists.

        • Jason Harris says:

          So what, pray tell, is it based on?

          Should I believe that fighters are going up to journalists saying “well yeah man, I use steroids and so do all my training partners, but keep it on the hush?” That sounds really plausible.

          Or are journalists hearing things like “yeah, I hear most of the guys from such and such gym are using, look at how big they are!” from gossipy fighters and passing that on?

          How credible is a fighter who says “everyone but me and my friends is using!”? How credible is a fighter who excuses his own steroid use by saying that everyone else is doing it too?

          Vague ethereal hints at “inside sources” mean jack shit. You want to quote a credible person in the industry with actual information and not anecdotal shit of what they heard or assume about other gyms? Be my guest, blow that story wide open. You want to spout out numbers that are pulled from thin air based on vague and shaky anecdotes? It’s gossipy hot air and a waste of everyone’s time.

          Also, re: the Sherdog credential crap, it seems that there were an awful lot of reasons that Sherdog got their credentials pulled on several occasions, based on an overall shitty relationship with the org. But let me guess, you think it’s because Zuffa is evil? Who knows, you don’t seem to have much interest in actually backing anything you say up.

        • Mark says:

          A few things.

          1) Even though people like Gross, Meltzer, Iole, ect. are in regular contact with industry people, they’re taking the ESPN reporter stance of acting like amplified press agents than reporters. Just air/transcribe whatever talking point they want out there. It’s like everybody is so afraid to get access cut off not just from Zuffa but from camps too. It’s why I don’t even bother visiting many MMA sites and I very rarely watch/listen to any fighter interview because it is all so pointless. If MMA writers want to be taken seriously, then act seriously.

          2) It’s obviously not going to be fighters admitting off the record they’re juicing, nor would it be fighters ratting out other fighters in their camp. It’s going to be a trainer, a hanger-on, or some other assorted anonymous person looking to feel important by being a source to a writer by giving them the dirt. Are they reliable sources? Maybe, maybe not. But it shouldn’t automatically be written off. Remember anonymous sources were telling people McGwire was on PEDs long before his pills were found in his locker. Remember Jose Canseco was viewed as a liar looking to make a quick buck when his book came out. And he was a scumbag looking to make a quick buck. But he was also telling the truth as it turned out by the revelations in the Mitchell Report matching up to what he was claiming for years.

          Several writers have admitted they get this regularly from anonymous sources in camps, but sit on it. It’s all about not wanting to soil the sport by showing dirt. This is not journalism. It’s being their volunteer press agent. Should they run out with “OMG THE GUY WHO MOPS FLOORS AT AKA SAYS KOSCHECK IS CYCLING!”? No. But admitting that a bunch of smoke is leading to a possible fire, instead of pretending like anything that could “hurt the sport” doesn’t exist, would get you the respect MMA writers have lusted for. And if it turns out everybody is wrong and the sport is squeaky clean, then you get the best of both worlds.

        • Should I believe that fighters are going up to journalists saying “well yeah man, I use steroids and so do all my training partners, but keep it on the hush?” That sounds really plausible.

          Past, and present fighters, agents, promoters, trainers, training staff, etc etc etc etc. These are people journalists talk to. These are people Pepe has had no apparently contact to.

          Let’s put this in another context – do you think that more baseball players were using PEDs in the late 1990s than just the official MLB report and the BALCO hearings had named? The people involved thinks so, but by the logic being used here, we should assume that no one else is simply because there is no paper trail or positive that is public.

  3. Brad Wharton says:

    Silva vs Oldereem (see what I did there?) isn’t happening according to Scott Coker.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    Zuffa should be happy that so few purchased such a bad PPV.

    I expect the next 3 PPV’s to either come close or break the 500,000 mark as well. Which would me UFC 119 is the loan event to do bad business during a large stretch of great business.

    I like the Strikeforce’s December card so far. Probably the best event on paper they are putting on since June.

    • The Gaijin says:

      So I think they break down something like this, if my crystal ball is correct:

      120: Free TV. Probably pulls…2.5-3 million viewers on Spike.

      121: 1-1.1 million buys – Lesnar is their big star and I think people will be interested to see what his next performance looks like after that big comeback, but I don’t think Cain has the same recognition with casuals and the mainstream that Carwin had.

      122: Free tv. I have a feeling this could garner the worst if not one of the worst ratings for a free UFC #’d event. Nate vs. Okami is meaningful to the title picture, but Nate pulled crap ratings for his last main event, Okami has little traction with fans and the rest of this card is filler from a “drawing” perspective (notwithstanding the fact that there could be some exciting fights)…but its free.

      123: 650-750k. Lyoto, Rampage, BJ – LHW for a long time was the crown jewel draw wise for the UFC. I doubt this has the heat to draw 1+ million buys like Rampage-Rashad, but that had a lot of steam between the two that boiled over a season of TUF and a lot of media confrontations.

      124: GSP vs. Kos, in Montreal after a full season of TUF. Can it beat 1.05 million from UFC 113 ? GSP got 850K with a strong Mir-Carwin interim title fight…seems casuals and “action, action, action” fans might be turning on him a bit…I love the guy (go Canada!), and I’ll buy, but I know people have soured on him based on some of his recent fights. I have a feeling they’re gonna see what GSP and Kos can do with a TUF season under their belt without having to burn up a fight that could beef up a card with less selling power.

      125: As it currently stands (and I just don’t think there’s any way they have Edgar vs. Maynard headline their “NYE” card) it’s going to get ~400k.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I agree that Marquardt/Okami will do bad ratings. Marquardt is just not a draw, and nobody really knows who Okami is outside of the hardcore fans. And the undercard isn’t very good either. At least with UFC 120, it’s a solid free main event with a rather stacked undercard (for a free show).

        UFC 123 really got saved by Hughes/Penn 3. It pushed Lauzon/Sotoripolous out of the co-main event rule (which it shouldn’t be) and really added depth to the card.

        As for UFC 125…. The co-main event is likely going to be Carwin/Nelson. Which is decent, but this PPV won’t do huge numbers. I actually think it’s good that they aren’t overstacking this card. Many people are extremely hung over on New Years. I really don’t think many people are going to want to stay up late the next night and drink while watching a UFC PPV. The calendar sort of killed the UFC’s year end plans this year. Next year they can’t even do a year end show because the last 2 Saturday’s of the year are X-Mas Eve and New Years Eve. 2012 has December 29th as the last Saturday of the year, and that makes for a perfect date for a year end show.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          And the other thing that worries me is that they are going to have another numbered show in January. I really hope they don’t try and squeeze in a PPV. I hope they do what seems like a recent trend which is put on an international free event on SpikeTV the weekend before the PPV.

  5. Chris says:

    Larry Pepe= Wrong.

  6. Zack says:

    Is Zach Arnold the only guy who has heard of Larry Pepe?

    “He was banned from the UFC credential-wise because when he had the results of The Ultimate Fighter 4 show and he gave them out on the air when he did his Sherdog radio show and that didn’t sit well with the UFC as you could imagine so they banned him and there’s a negative relationship there between him and Dana.”

    This is completely incorrect and leads me to believe that Mr. Pepe is a n00b. Zuffa yanked Sherdog’s credentials prior to the TUF 4 spoiler.

    • Mark says:

      This is true. It’s one of those myths that have been passed around online so much people believe it’s a fact just because it was so constant. I can’t remember for sure when they booted Sherdog, but I think it was either the TUF 2 finale or UFC 55 as the first event they were booted. And it’s one of those stories where why it happened depends on who you believe. The options are either:

      1) Dana was pissed off UFC fighters were treated as second-rate and PRIDE fighters were automatically held above them (namely Wanderlei being #1 over Liddell.)

      2) Dana was embarrassed by them when the real media started attending events seeing a bunch of amateur reporters expecting preferential treatment.

      3) Dana wanted the Sherdog team to run the UFC’s website but they turned him down and Dana can’t handle rejection so he’s had a 5 year vendetta.

      • Jason Harris says:

        Myths abound

        According to Sherwood it was some tiff over DVD sales

        • Mark says:

          Yeah, and I don’t believe that for several reasons.

          1) Why would Dana be talking to such a low level employee like Sherdog’s buyer? He certainly has a merchandise staff that would do that. I doubt he’d even talk to someone as major as Wal Mart’s DVD buyer, let alone someone from Sherdog.

          2) UFC doesn’t have any control over the price anyway. Their DVD company buys the rights to it and handles everything from there. Then the company sells to wholesalers to distribute to stores, so Sherdog would be complaining to them and not Dana.

          3) Why would Dana even care by mid-2005 that his DVDs weren’t going to be sold at Sherdog? They were now being carried in Best Buy, various mall chain stores, Blockbuster, maybe even Wal Mart. So he was selling more DVDs than ever.

        • Short answer re: UFC DVDs – they had a huge issue with the people that they were working on from UFC 43-56. That’s why UFC 57 as a standalone DVD is incredibly rare.

    • Fluyid says:

      Do your research, guys. All the information you need is at your fingertips.

      From Wikipedia:

      “Samuel Pepys was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament, who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man. Although Pepys had no maritime experience, he rose by patronage, hard work and his talent for administration, to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II.

      His influence and reforms at the Admiralty were important in the early professionalisation of the Royal Navy.”

  7. Mark says:

    Of course “zero tolerance” automatic blackballing for a failed test is ridiculous. Gross says stuff to be provocative to get people to pay attention to him. He’s no different in that regard to Jim Rome or Jay Mariotti or the dozen other “sports experts” who litter ESPN, Fox Sports and Comcast Sportsnet as vapid talking heads.

    There’s no such thing as a hardnosed mainstream sports journalist now. Newspapers are dead so they just mass market AP blurb stories on games and run standings and maybe one crappy column in most papers these days. ESPN is all fluff pieces because saying anything negative about a league affects them financially since they have a stake in all of them since they air their games. And nobody reads SI anymore, and they haven’t done anything relevant to sports journalism since the steroids in baseball deal they came into about 5 years too late. Then you’ve got online people are just bloggers doing opinion pieces. But big stories like the NFL tampering with the rules to ensure high scoring games for big ratings and the possibility that the record breaking pitching year of 2010 could be as dirty as the 1998 home run chase with HGH not being detected in MLB drug testing. Both stories got minor mentions on their talking heads shows and dismissed as nonsense just because.

    As for MMA “journalism” (and I use that term loosely), they’re still finding their niche. People are debating about how seriously the “guys with websites” should be taken when they’re not out there like real reporters and at most talk with guys for 20 minutes on their podcasts. And since so few MMA “media” figures are allowed in the mainstream, there’s a debate on whether their op-ed pieces should be allowed, that they should be real reporters with their ESPN/Fox/Yahoo/USA Today/SI soapboxes and leave the blogging stuff to the “guys with websites”. Then you’ve got the debate that ESPN’s MMA show is too pro-UFC and HDNet’s is too anti-UFC.

    But at the end of the day, you can just look at statistics. Far more people just want to watch sports then read about it. People just want to watch the game on Sunday than care about what Jay Glazer’s opinion of a player is. More people just want to watch a PPV once a month than care what Josh Gross thinks about Zuffa. And if you do want to care about MMA Media, there’s a huge selection of it to fit the slant of your viewpoints as much as there’s political coverage for conservatives, liberals and moderates. So just let it find its way before freaking out about it.

  8. Tommy says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Zuffa pulled all online media credentials prior to UFC 54 (Liddell vs. Horn)it wasn’t just Sherdog that took the hit but also sites like MMA Weekly Max Fighting, etc.

    Pepe lost me on a few points here, though I do think he raises a few good points as well.

    -Its a little pie in the sky to believe that the state athletic commissions method of testing is fail proof, if you truely think that only the 10 fighters who got caught are the only 10 using PEDs, that’s a little bit naive

    - This whole line about MMA being so much safer than football and boxing is odd to me. IMHO just seems that some in the MMA community want to defend the safety of MMA a little too much and paint it in the light of almost a nonviolent sport.

    MMA is very violent and its also a big part of its appeal.

    • Mark says:

      In some research here’s a pseudo-timeline of the events.

      April 2005 UFC 52: Dana thanked the MMA media for their support in the post-show press conference, including Jeff Sherwood by name.

      August 2005 UFC 54: Josh Gross is featured giving his views on Liddell/Horn II on their PPV pre-show.

      September 2005: Josh Gross claims Dana White offered him a job to run UFC.com` for a raise of $28,000 more than he was making with Sherdog. He turned him down claiming he wanted to report without having to be biased towards UFC.

      October 2005: All MMA websites (the major ones being Sherdog, FullContactFighter, MMAWeekly, among others) are denied press passes for UFC 55.

      August 2006: Ultimate Fighter 4 results leaked on Sherdog.com. Dana says in a radio interview “They went and found out who the finalists were for season four of The Ultimate Fighter and ran them. Of all the scumbaggish things. When you burn me like that, it’s forever. I will never trust them or like them.”

      February 2007: Sherwood has a meeting with Dana to discuss their issues. Sherwood claims Dana said he had a huge argument with Sherdog’s buyer in summer 2005 over the prices of DVDs where the buyer vowed to stop stocking UFC DVDs if the price goes up. Sherwood denies that ever happened because his buyer never told him about a conflict with Dana, nor did Sherdog’s store ever stop selling UFC DVDs. They reportedly patch things up and Sherdog is given credentials for the next 2 shows.

      May 2007: Dana tells the media he’s pissed Sports Illustrated is partnering with Sherdog because “they fucking lie” and “are a total tabloid”.

      June 2007: Dana has a bizarre meltdown about Sherdog’s coverage of the K-1 Los Angeles show and sends Jeff Sherwood a text message reading “You’re my enemy until the day I die.” Dana claims they were given credentials to WEC 28 and ignored the event “to cover that freak show.”

      • Jason Harris says:

        Good timeline, if only everyone did as much research as this for their posts. I dug up some old thread on Sherdog about it and someone said it pretty succinctly: “They’ve gotten their access back but then they keep doing something to piss the UFC off”

        UFC and Sherdog seemed to be at odds over and over again and nowadays I think UFC realizes they’re not longer relevant even to hardcore fans, so they’re not even bothering anymore.

        • Zack says:

          LOL @ “no longer relevant”

          Google any fighters name and Sherdog comes up in the first 5 searches. Whether you like it or not, they’re one of the biggest sites in MMA. The forums are worthless but their coverage is great. Tell me what other websites would continue to cover Zuffa events to the extent they do while being barred…everyone else is bending over left and right.

        • Jason Harris says:

          @Zack: The fight finder is great, and occasionally they have solid content, but compared to five years ago when they were THE PLACE for MMA news/discussion/anything, they’ve really fallen off. It used to be Sherdog and everyone else, and now they’re one site among many, and often times if you want the latest news on what’s happening you have to go to other sites. I have Sherdog on my RSS feed, they get some nice interviews here and there (they’re definitely worlds above some of the gossip sites like BloodyElbow) but they aren’t breaking a lot of news these days.

  9. Zack says:

    Yeah…55 was the one where the MMA Media was banned (except for Inside Fighting.) I remember listening to Ryan Bennett’s radio show leading up to that and they basically refused to talk about 55 the week of it in protest for being banned.

    • Fluyid says:

      Was 55 also the one that was sponsored by KTFO.com or was that 53?

      • Zack says:

        Can’t remember. UFC 53 and 55 were so shitty that they were the last events that my pre-TUF friends came over to watch on PPV. I haven’t watched them since they happened.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          I was at UFC 55. It was the worst live UFC experience I ever had. Fights were boring. I think it was Alessio Sakara that got kicked in the nuts so hard that he couldn’t continue. Gannon was on the card. Griffin was given a way too easy fight in Sinosic. And the main event lasted 15 seconds.

          Not to mention my program got beer spilled all over it due to an annoying woman sitting next to me.

  10. Fluyid says:

    More drug testing news:

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/oct/05/nevada-commission-makes-small-amendments-drug-test/

    Hemoglobin tests now by the Nevada commission.

  11. EJ says:

    whatever their testing is they better have a real appeals process and not the sham that the CSAC has for one. Because if people are going to trust the AC’s to test for drugs they better be able to trust them handle a supposed failure the right way too.

  12. bundt says:

    Thanks for transcribing this Zach. Gross deserves to get shredded like this more often.

  13. BabyFaceKiller says:

    I find it funny that most of the people who want to discredit Pepe do it based on whether he got the credentialing issue right, which amounted to about 30 seconds of 20 minutes. Do any of you think that Gross’ relationship with Dana and Zuffa is on good terms when Dana tells Josh to F off when he texts him? That’s the point. Gross has bad history with Zuffa or he’d sure as hell be getting credentialed as an Sports Illustrated reporter, and I use that term loosely.

    Pepe destroyed that guy and he deserved it. No facts, just gym banter. Gross looks like a moron after reading this. Thanks Zach, great find.

    • Zack says:

      Hi Larry. No, I think it’s pathetic that someone goes on a tirade about someone then tries to discredit them with misinformation.

  14. Phil says:

    The problem with Gross making this statement is that he isn’t one of the many people that act like Zuffa is the only major player in the sport. That policy would hurt the UFC and help the people that buy into Josh Gross’ love affair with co-promotion more than it would hurt the fighters that cheat.

  15. Did anyone actually look up the study given? I just did. The average age of respondents was 54. FIFTY FOUR. Of those players who played primarily in the 1980s, 20.8 percent stated that they used anabolic steroids. So this is a study of old guys who played in the sport decades ago before the use of steroids was prevalent and before synthetic HGH was readily available, but the numbers are totally pertinent to MMA? Pepe sucks at research and you guys who are happily repeating this are fools for eating up what he writes without any critical thinking.

    • Time to show you how a rank amateur can do it. Want to know what that survey really was? OK. Info was collected from 2001-2003. Median age then is 54. Average time in the league is under 7 years. That means the average guy taking the study retired before 1980. How much data taken from living retired football players from the 1940s and 1950s (who were surveyed) regarding steroids can be applied in terms of discussing MMA steroid use in the year 2010? Exactly.

      • Mark says:

        That means the average guy taking the study retired before 1980.

        And according to the famous Lyle Alzado Sports Illustrated tell-all piece from 1991, he said very few guys knew what steroids were when he went to the Cleveland Browns in 1979 and he was introducing them to it and it didn’t get widespread in the NFL until 1982.

        • The Gaijin says:

          According to Cocaine Cowboys the whole NFL did however know what cocaine was though!

    • Jason Harris says:

      Flip the script, then. Come up with some bit of compelling evidence that there’s a huge amount of guys using other than the possibility that they could.

      Nobody seems to be able to do that. Is it possible that 70% of MMA fighters are taking all sorts of PEDs and skipping tests using cycling programs and whatever else? Sure. Does it seem likely based on the actual reality? No. Again, show me something that isn’t based on what completely non-relevant (and not involved in any gym worth a damn) guys like Ken Shamrock or Dennis Hallman and I’ll give it some credence.

      The thing is, it seems like a lot of people online want to have this “guilty until proven innocent” attitude. 100% of guys are juicing until we do olympic random blood testing to prove they’re not, and even then, if they fail the look test (Overeem) they’re just obviously using something that can’t be caught. It’s stupid and impossible to argue against people who just decree a guy is juicing because they don’t like how he looks or don’t like him as a fighter.

      • Flip the script, then. Come up with some bit of compelling evidence that there’s a huge amount of guys using other than the possibility that they could.

        What Gross and other journalists in MMA have is anecdotal evidence from fighters and fight camps regarding use of PEDs that leads them to believe that they are more strongly used than they are. Effectively what you are asking me for are positives, because that’s the only evidence you are willing to accept. I can’t provide that. However, the reasons for why you don’t get numerous positives on each card are, in your mind, excuses. You can’t get positives if not every fighter is tested, or if no fighters are tested. That’s a starting point, and with MMA those are real possibilities. How many times do we see the list of fighters who are tested and its not everyone on the card? Can you deny that? No, you can’t. So you move from that onward – how stringent is NSAC testing compared to cycling? The NFL? MLB? And so on. That’s the tip of the iceberg.

        • The Gaijin says:

          BURN x2.

        • Jason Harris says:

          I’m all for them testing every guy on the card, but the disparity between who fought and who was tested does not explain the fact that nowhere near these 30-70% quoted figures are popping positive. Advocating more stringent testing is fine, but doing it by claiming everyone is juicing, and btw all of those guys should be banned from the UFC, is just idiocy.

  16. This guy doesn’t *really* provide a very balance objective analysis – but you know what they say, to get the ratings you can’t just express a mild viewpoint.

    I’m of the view that most fighters use steroids and other drugs intelligently when they can — how invaluable could it be for recovery time? But I just simply don’t care.

  17. [...] This was the article that created a controversy in media circles: Larry Pepe eviscerates Josh Gross for proposing zero-tolerance UFC policy, says current drug testing… [...]

  18. [...] accurately, the tempted ones via urine-based analysis (blood tests are required for some PEDs). If you believe Larry, you are to believe that approximately only one professional mixed martial artist, annually, listens [...]

  19. [...] reminds me of the back-and-forth debate that happened between Josh Gross and Larry Pepe (here, here, and here) in which Larry challenged the idea that so many fighters would be visiting [...]

  20. [...] Pepe criticized Josh Gross for his claims about PED usage in MMA on Jim Rome’s radio show. You can read the transcript of Larry said right here. What I wanted to highlight from Larry’s argument that drug testing is working in MMA is what [...]

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