What does Lesnar’s exemption from the USADA testing period really mean for the sport?

 

Former Heavyweight Champion, current WWE superstar and genetic freak, Brock Lesnar is returning to the Octagon. Fighting for the first time since retiring due to Diverticulitis, Lesnar is returning on short notice against KO specialist Mark Hunt, but his return has been marred by the fact he has been exempt from the mandatory four month USADA testing period, but what does this exemption really mean? Does it question the reputation of the UFC and how ‘clean’ their athletes must be? Or does it just show that money is more important?

In the last three to five years, the UFC has introduced a stronger testing scheme in a bid to clean up the sport and avoid a controversy similar to that experienced by the WWE in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but this has come at a cost, with a number of their biggest names being caught out for using PED’s. Whilst it’s not a massive PR issue due to the lack of widespread following in the vein of an NFL or MLB, it is damaging none the less. As to sport continues to grow at a meteoric pace, steps need to be put in place to make sure they cannot fall victim to the selfishness of one of their fighters.

As such, they have introduced a stringent system in conjunction with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), whereby anyone who wants to fight, must announce their intentions four months prior to stepping into the octagon. Of course, there is then the dozens and dozens of tests that must be done throughout training camps and post fights as well. Strict, consistent and unforgiving. These tests catch everyone, from deliberate cheaters, to those who tested positive for tainted substances, in the last 48 hours, it was announced that Chad Mendes was flagged by USADA for a suspect testing on June 10 after his bout with Frankie Edgar. The tests are working, but are they working for everyone?

Organised and announced six weeks out from the card, Brock Lesnar V Mark Hunt was meant to save a UFC 200 card that lost out on Nate Diaz v Connor McGregor II, and many will argue, it has. The brute strength and power punching of the walk-off KO artist that is Mark Hunt against the athletic collegiate wrestler that is Lesnar. However, at what cost has the bout come? As mentioned, fighters are required to announce their intentions to fight four months prior, but in this case, it was only six weeks. Desperate for pay-per-view numbers like never before, Dana White and the UFC granted him an exemption to fight. An odd move to many as the sport has taken so many positive and strong strides to cleaning up their athletes and their image, so what does this make Dana White? A hypocrite? Well, he has a history of it, he has criticized his champions before for taking quick fights which have resulted in loses, but he had no issue making the fight and taking the money.

Exempting anyone from anything is a bad image as it is, but to exempt an athlete from testing is a big statement which directly contradicts what the sport is looking to stand for. Of course, Lesnar is still under testing requirements in this six week period, with reports recently suggesting he has been tested five times in two weeks, but, it gives him a three and a half month window where, anything could have happened. Now, by no means am I saying that anything has happened, but once the question marks are allowed to appear, that won’t go away, especially if he wins against Hunt.

Of course, the aim of any game, especially in the today’s world of professional sport is to make money and to sell the product, but should this come at the expense of image? Certainly not. This deal has come about because Dana made a mistake with Connor McGregor and the lead up to the expected rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 198 when he pulled him from the card for not showing up for his media obligations. White took a risk, making an example out of his biggest draw, and ultimately it has come back to bite him in a bigger way than he could have thought.

So, now, the question is, does Dana and the UFC care about their image, or do they care about money more?

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