MMA and it’s crown jewel, the UFC will struggle to be taken seriously as a sport unless it can win it’s war on drugs.
In what should be an exciting time for mixed martial arts fans, attention has been taken away from mouth watering fights and the gaze has been fixated on top level athletes testing positive for performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) and other illegal substances.
What makes this debacle even worse is that one of these top level athletes in question is Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva who recently made his long awaited return to the Octagon at UFC 183 after a horrific leg break 13 months beforehand. His opponent Nick Diaz also made his return to the main event slot where he too would test positive for illegal substances (marijuana metabolites).
If social media is anything to go by, the UFC fanbase were less surprised about Diaz failing a drug test given that this is third such offence. However, Silva, who many believe to be the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, landed a crushing blow to his fans and the sport in general.
According to the NSAC (Nevada State Athletic Commission) Silva has passed his second out of competition test and is due to attend a meeting on February 17th to discuss the outcome.
With Jon Jones testing positive for cocaine earlier in the year and a stint in rehab, news broke late Tuesday evening that Hector Lombard has also failed a drug test after his UFC 182 win over Josh Burkman.
Burkman later took to Twitter to say the following:
I still respect @HectorLombard as a man and as a Martial Artist. I am never surprised when pro athletes get caught w PED’s.
— Joshua Burkman (@JoshBurkman) February 10, 2015
Lombard was scheduled to fight Rory MacDonald in the co-main event at UFC 186 on the 25th of April but has since been pulled from the card due to the latest news.
PED’s and illegal substances are nothing new to the world of combat sports but with so many fighters testing positive in such a sport space of time, it hinders the sport and raises many questions.
In the case of Anderson Silva, is this the first time or has he knowingly taken illegal substances before and gotten away with it? This is all purely speculation but these questions are on a lot of fans lips right now.
It is remarkable to think that missing weight before fight night was the most punishable offence however it seems like the lesser of two evils now given everything that has been going on this year.
MMA as a recognised sport is still only in its early stages and with such high profile fighters on the roster of the world’s biggest organisation, this could do more damage than good in the long term if the sport is to be taken seriously and rid itself of negative stereotypes.
As an Irish writer and a long term fan of MMA, it is difficult to know what can be done other than screening every fighter on every card nationwide in the United States over the next six months to a year. It may not eradicate the problem of illegal substances but it would send out a very strong message that athletic commissions and MMA organisations are clamping down and clamping down hard.
MMA is still only in its infancy as a sport but if the start of this year is anything to go by, it has a lot of growing up to do.