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« | Home | »

Dana White’s stressing out over steroids comes off as incoherent

By Zach Arnold | April 16, 2012

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Kenny Florian may be mad about drug usage in MMA, but his bosses have spun a rather conflicting message on this front.

The back drop of what happened in the UFC over the last two weeks should be established here. For UFC Sweden, you have Thiago Silva headlining a main event against Alexander Gustafsson. Silva was coming off of suspension from Nevada because of an altered urine sample for his drug test. Hacran Dias, who was supposed to be on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil but failed a drug test due to usage of diuretics, got signed by UFC to a contract. To add a touch of irony, Fuel TV hired Karyn Bryant to do the fighter interviews. Yes, that Karyn Bryant who Rampage motorboated and name-dropped his chiropractor (Dr. William Kessler) during an interview when he was praising his usage of testosterone.

So, we know where UFC stands based on their recent actions when it comes to the usage of drugs by fighters in MMA. Don’t hate the player, hate the game? Well, when the game is about whether or not UFC is a sport, part of that process is drug testing and cleaning up rampant drug abuse. It’s not just an image thing, it’s also a health & safety thing, too.

Which is why these two headlines from Dana White this weekend at UFC Sweden made him sound as out-of-touch as Bob Arum:

Money quote from the first article:

“The [expletive] testing in this sport is insane. It is literally the gold standard in all of sports.”

And as for the guys who get caught by that testing? White had some words for them as well.

“You’re grown men. You’re [expletive] adults. You’re professional athletes. How many times do you have to be told not to do this? To the point where you just completely blow you’re entire [expletive] career?”

Money quote from the second article:

“I have 375 fighters in every country all over the world,” White fumed. “The battle that I have to get these guys to get their [expletive] bout agreements back and show up for press is un[expletive]believable. The fact that I have to make personal phone calls to tell guys to talk to the [expletive] press. Now I’m going to start making personal phone calls to go show up for random drug tests? The general public and the media need to grasp some [expletive] concept of reality, okay? The reality of us doing all the [expletive] things that we’re doing, when we already have the gold standard in drug testing, and then trying to chase 375 guys all over the world to randomly test them too? It’s impossible.”

What’s funny about this quote is that no one is asking Dana to personally hold a cup and take a urine sample from 375 fighters around the world and do the drug testing himself. The Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency, a non-profit organization set up to help out with advanced & independent drug testing in combat sports, is right in Las Vegas. VADA works with WADA-accredited labs, something that many athletic commissions currently do not. For the UFC, all they would need to do is support an independently-operated drug testing program that would administratively take the issue right out of their hands. No more drug testing while running ’self-regulated’ shows, either.

Earlier, I remarked that Dana sounds as out-of-touch as Bob Arum does on this issue. Truthfully, we know Dana knows better than what he’s spouting off here. He knows drug usage is a big problem and his company is facing chaos because guys are getting suspended. That’s what makes the UFC’s predicament so intriguing here — the current drug testing protocols are nowhere near what they should be and yet many fighters are failing a standard IQ test by being sloppy drug users or shamelessly begging for a hall pass to use testosterone. Combine that with the number of fighters who are using designer steroids or growth hormone quietly and you can see just how out of control things are right now for drug usage in the sport.

UFC is at a crossroads here. Promoters want certainty. An environment with no drug testing would provide certainty, but that world is not going to exist. So, it’s time for UFC to cooperate with independent agencies that can handle the drug testing issue for them and do the job right. Sunlight may as well be exposed on all the fighters.

It’s not as if independent drug testing on a world stage isn’t currently being done. It’s done with Olympic competitors. It’s done with tennis players. Drug testing in tennis blows away what’s currently happening in MMA.

And, yet, you will see people basically take a realpolitik stance on the matter. “Hey, Chael Sonnen’s fighting in Brazil while using testosterone. Thiago Silva’s headlining UFC Sweden. How much more proof do you need that they don’t care about PEDs?” The way in which this dropped during a conversation is more or less in a ‘hey, if they don’t care, why should I care?” kind of tone.

Why the UFC should care about the drug issue

Liability. Forget pushing pipe dream, no-name international MMA sanctioning bodies. It’s simply not going to work. What will work is if the UFC works with someone like VADA and actually stops hiring guys who are prominent drug users. Fighters wouldn’t risk using drugs as often if they knew the price to be paid was their job security. UFC has the power of message to send to fighters not to use testosterone or else they won’t be coming back to the organization. Instead, guys who recently miss failed drug tests get hired right back or back within a year.

But what happens on a self-regulated show if a testosterone user like Sonnen ends up crippling or killing a fighter? There will be hell to pay on many fronts and the legal front is a guaranteed avenue of pain for Zuffa. They should clean things up as much as they possibly can now before it mushrooms into a giant legal headache later on. Take a look at the legal issues the NFL is facing right now from having over 1,000 former players sue them over concussions.

Image & credibility. How on Earth can a bunch of men who look like Greek Gods be crying hypogonadism with a straight face and telling fans that they have to use testosterone because they suffer from a medical condition that less than 2% of the adult male population in the world suffers from? It’s embarrassing to see play out the way it is right now. On Tuesday (7-8 PM EST, 4-5 PM PST) in Nevada, there will be a 1 hour meeting of the NSAC’s medical advisory panel to talk about Therapeutic Use Exemptions. What exquisite timing given Alistair’s hearing coming up next week. The varying standards between different AC’s over TUEs and what the process should be is a perfect reason as to why TUEs for testosterone shouldn’t be happening in the first place. If the WWE, of all companies, can see what a fiasco a TUE for testosterone is for a professional wrestler, why should an MMA fighter get a hall pass to use testosterone? Dr. Margaret Goodman of VADA is largely opposed to TUEs for testosterone. I’ve said that TUEs for testosterone shouldn’t be happening. Others who come from the pro-wrestling business see the oncoming train wreck in MMA over the testosterone issue and they, too, are sounding off against testosterone usage in MMA.

Last week, Siena released the latest poll results about the image of MMA & MMA legislation in the state of New York. 38% approval, 52% disapproval and the numbers amongst women continue to be horrific – 26% approve, 60% oppose. UFC has spent millions of dollars trying to get MMA legislation passed in the state despite the fact that UFC has not cultivated grass roots support for MMA in the state amongst key Democratic voter blocks. If you’re a parent and your kid wants to get involved in MMA, you might have second thoughts about it because of the current drug culture of the business. It’s not as if the fighters who are using drugs in MMA are low-profile people. We’re talking big names here, household names for MMA fans. The drug issue isn’t the #1 primary cause of low approval ratings for MMA in New York, but it’s a hell of a hammer to slam the business with. And who can blame the politicians for not approving MMA legislation in the state if they aren’t receiving any pressure from influential voters to pass such a bill?

It’s time for a total overhaul of the mindset at Zuffa headquarters over the way the drug issue is being handled in the sport now. It’s not just about the health & safety of their fighters, it’s also about their corporate image which is getting chipped away every time a high-profile fighter gets busted for drug usage. When you are a facing a problem like this, rewarding guys who recently fail drug tests sends a loud message and it’s not a positive one. Both in terms of public relations and business actions, UFC needs to dramatically change the way business is being handled. It’s in their best financial interests to do so, whether they realize that right now or not.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 17 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

17 Responses to “Dana White’s stressing out over steroids comes off as incoherent”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    1) To Zuffa’s defense, Thiago Silva was a replacement for the main event.

    2) Dana White knows he is eventually going to have to test the fighters himself, but is putting it off as long as possible. Very much like baseball did.

    3) Dana White has handled the Alistair Overeem situation all wrong. He should be taken out of the main event already. The ONLY way he will be redeemed in my eyes is if Overeem gets suspended and they fire him.

    4) His comments come across as stupid and ignorant. Can’t test everybody? Why not? Everybody else does.

    5) The Dana White vs. Ben Askren feud isn’t going to end well for Ben Askren. Being an undefeated Bellator Champion at the end of your contract is defined by two things: a) UFC Fan’s Demand b) UFC wanting to hurt Bellator.

    So take Hector Lombard for a second. The hardcore fans want to see him fight in the UFC. And by signing him, it will hurt Bellator because he does put on exciting fights (due to competition levels, but that is a different topic).

    So now look at Ben Askren. There is no UFC Fans Demand to see him fight. And some would say that Bellator is more hurt having him fighting on their telecasts due to his boring style.

    So what the heck was he thinking by getting into a fight with Dana White via twitter? Does he want to fight in Bellator for the rest of his life? Does he realize he just threw away the little leverage he had left into getting a bigger contract?

    Askren was 100% right on the drug testing topic…. But he just cost himself big time down the line. Not smart.

    • Fluyid says:

      Maybe Dana and Askren can settle it with a boxing match.

    • Vadim says:

      I wouldn’t really call it a feud so much as Dana White being butt hurt because a fighter that he can’t silence called him out on his BS.

      I think the Bellator careers of Ben Askren and Cole Konrad are proof that 9 times out of 10 its better to let guys develop their skills on smaller stages before fighting on television. Its dumb to expect either of these guys to not lean on their bread and butter skills and not take risks when they have so much at stake in their young careers.

      It ain’t his fault that no one he has faced can really push him. Reminds me of how Micheal Chandler quietly ran through the LW tourney and put on a FOTY candidate when he ran into a top 10-15 LW fighter in Eddie Alvarez.

      It takes two to make a good fight.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        For every 1 Askren, there are 10 other fighters who were wrecked by the Bellator system.

        Putting Ben Saunders in potentially 6 fights in 9 months is going to wreck him down the line. But I noticed you didn’t want to comment on the negatives.

        As for Askren/White…. Askren has every right to say whatever he wants. I was just pointing out that he was stupid to do so because he needs Dana White in about a year to increase his market value.

  2. EJ says:

    Zach, It’s absolutely amazing to me how you continue to take every chance you get to try and tie everything to your steroid crusade. Seriously i’m surprised you haven’t hurt yourself with the way you keep reaching to make this something it’s not. It’s equally amazing how now Sonnen is liable to kill someone in the cage because of TRT, you need help man this is becoming past ridiculous now.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      Did you just climb out of a cave and find out about UFC’s Memorial Day main event getting screwed over because one of the headliners tested for elevated levels of testosterone?

      • Jason Harris says:

        And again, where was your outrage when this same thing happened to Affliction? Or the dozen or more other positive tests since then? We weren’t getting beaten about the head with 3 posts a week about it then. Why now?

        It’s become a crusade, and in every single one of these posts you reference VADA (which is a new entity selling a service and not in any way established or trustworthy) or Victor Conte who’s basically trying to browbeat anyone he can into using him for his “expertise”.

        These articles are full of hyperbole and trying to start a lynch mob to get everyone to kneejerk react. And you’re always pushing everyone towards VADA, who again…what is their track record? What organizations/events have they organized testing for? You trot out that the doctor used to work for the AC, and it strikes me as funny that this doctor didn’t work for change within the commission and instead went out for the business opportunity of starting their own testing facility.

        This is really starting to look like sponsored posts.

      • Jonathan Snowden says:

        Ironically, that fighter may be out of the main event because of the kind and nature of testing you are advocating. So, what’s the point again?

        If that’s the problem, certainly even MORE robust testing isn’t the answer.

        • Chuck says:

          I thought that was the point of more robust testing. To get cheaters and to kick them out of big fights as punishment. And to suspend them. Kind of obvious, eh?

        • Jonathan Snowden says:

          “I thought that was the point of more robust testing. To get cheaters and to kick them out of big fights as punishment. And to suspend them. Kind of obvious, eh?”

          Is it obvious? Reading this site, it appears the top reasons for drug testing include things like heading off potential PR problems if a fighter dies in the cage and preventing main events from being cancelled when fighters pop hot (because everyone will be clean!).

          I’m not being snarky. The PR issue is the top reason I see here, with Zach bringing it up in every article on the subject.

  3. Stel says:

    45’s individually numbered points…doesn’t that get old? Are they in order of importance?
    If I ever read them I’m sure they would seem like the ranting demands for attention of a spoiled petulant child.

    The great knowitall ufc cheerleader troll, nitpicking every little thing. But when it doesn’t go your way, and you are told to be quiet or use your inside voice… you shout or change the subject

    • 45 Huddle says:

      You should read them. Then maybe you wouldn’t call me a ufc cheerleader.

      And for somebody who acts like he doesn’t care about me, you certainly took your time to point it out in a very attention seeking post.

      At least I stick to the topic….

    • Chuck says:

      Dude, 45 trashed Dana pretty hard. What were you reading?

  4. Stel says:

    Similar to the way Dana, rather than provide even an iota of evidence to authenticate his claim, chooses to insult the rebuter(Askren) personally.
    A standard typical ad hominem attack by the ufc god who relates its fellow smaller promotion to something not quite as interesting as watching insects procreate.

    Dana is sick man, and the fact is…Askren’s last 2 fights were more entertaining than GSP’s last 2 or 3 fights!

  5. Dave says:

    Well, seriously.

    If Dana’s problem is that he can’t babysit that many fighters, get some people in talent relations to handle it.

  6. Jonathan says:

    There are times when I imagine what it would be like to BE Dana White…and then I shudder. I believe, in all honesty, that HE makes his job tougher on himself then it really needs to be. Just my opinion.

    And I will say that 45 Huddle hit him pretty hard. Might it be the exception that proves the rule.

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