From an outsider’s perspective, mixed martial arts is a dirty sport. How is it possible that these muscle-bound men aren’t taking performance-enhancing substances? UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson once told us that he believes as many as 80 percent of his peers are on the juice.
If you think that’s an astonishing percentage of drug abusers, UFC president Dana White trumped it after Thursday’s press conference in Las Vegas. White estimates 84 percent of his athletes smoke marijuana.
However, is weed a PED? Does it help a fighter relax and recover faster after a long and rigorous day of training, or is it simply a stoner’s preferred pastime?
That fiery debate can blaze on for days, pun intended.
Most believe the answer for eradicating MMA of all banned substances would be to conduct random, out-of-competition drug exams. While it would be much more difficult for fighters to dodge pop quizzes, White doesn’t think that’s the solution because it would mainly spotlight the fact his promotion is packed full of pot heads.
“Everybody thinks that if you did this random testing you’d catch so many guys on PEDs,” White stated. “No, you’d catch more of the guys on marijuana. That’s where you’d really bust a lot of guys. So [we've got] 475 guys under contract and 400 of them would be out with marijuana [suspensions].
“Forget about PEDs. If we get into this random testing you guys are talking about, you know how many guys would probably test positive for marijuana? It would probably be off the charts.”
White certainly isn’t opposed to cleaning up the sport, but he’s not about to spearhead the charge in order to do so. Especially since what would be uncovered isn’t what he believes is endangering MMA’s growth and safety.
While White doesn’t puff the magic dragon, he doesn’t think fighters who do should suffer the same – if not worse – punishment as those who take PEDs. Welterweight top contender Nick Diaz (Pictured) was issued a year-long ban by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for having marijuana metabolites in his system for the second time in five years.
Heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem, on the other hand, was only suspended nine months by the same committee after registering more than twice the legal limit of testosterone in his body.
“I don’t even smoke marijuana. It’s illegal and you shouldn’t do it,” White expressed. “But the guys that are gonna get busted, they’re gonna get the same suspension as they would for a PED. Whereas, when you’re taking a performance-enhancing drug, you go in and you face another fighter, you can hurt him. But for marijuana? It’s just crazy.
“I do not think the penalties should be the same for smoking marijuana as it is for taking performance-enhancing drugs, yet it is. It’s exactly the same. Look at how long Nick Diaz is out right now for marijuana, it’s the same as a guy who’s taking steroids. It’s crazy, so the whole system is messed up.”
Yes, this is indeed a sticky icky situation.