The UFC and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) are set to part ways in 2024 due to the “untenable” situation caused after Conor McGregor dropped out of the testing pool.
The contract between the UFC and USADA will expire at the end of 2023, from which time the UFC will seemingly administer their own program.
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USADA’s CEO Travis Tygart announced the split via a statement, as well as announcing that McGregor had re-entered the USADA testing pool as of Sunday, October 8.
“We have been clear and firm with the UFC that there should be no exception given by the UFC for McGregor to fight until he has returned two negative tests and been in the pool for at least six months,” the statement read.
“The rules also allow USADA to keep someone in the testing pool longer before competing based on their declarations upon entry in the pool and testing results.
“Unfortunately, we do not currently know whether the UFC will ultimately honour the six-month or longer requirement because, as of January 1, 2024, USADA will no longer be involved with the UFC Anti-Doping Program. Despite a positive and productive meeting about a contract renewal in May 2023, the UFC did an about-face and informed USADA on Monday, October 9, that it was going in a different direction.
“We are disappointed for UFC athletes, who are independent contractors who rely on our independent, gold-standard global program to protect their rights to a clean, safe, and fair Octagon. The UFC’s move imperils the immense progress made within the sport under USADA’s leadership.
“The relationship between USADA and UFC became untenable given the statements made by UFC leaders and others questioning USADA’s principled stance that McGregor not be allowed to fight without being in the testing pool for at least six months. One UFC commentator echoed this, recently declaring that USADA should not oversee the UFC program since we held firm to the six-month rule involving McGregor, and since we do not allow fighters without an approved medical basis to use performance-enhancing drugs like experimental, unapproved peptides or testosterone for healing or injuries simply to get back in the Octagon.
“Fighters’ long-term health and safety — in addition to a fair and level playing field — are more important to USADA than short-term profits at the expense of clean athletes. USADA is proud of the work we’ve done over the past eight years to clean up the UFC, and we will continue to provide our unparalleled service to UFC athletes through the remainder of our current contract, which ends December 31, 2023. As always, we will continue to uphold the rights and voices of clean athletes in all sport.”
While it seems like a big move, UFC announcer Brendan Fitzgerald tweeted that the UFC’s drug program would continue and that McGregor would have to complete his six months in the testing pool.
It means McGregor won’t be eligible to fight until April at the earliest, unless granted an exemption.
Fitzgerald also pointed to the fact the NFL, NHL, MLB and other major sporting leagues don’t use USADA, according to the anti-doping organisation’s own website.
In fact, it spruiked that it did oversee the UFC’s anti-doping program, a fact which will expire in less than three months.
Fitzgerald said: “USADA loved having UFC as a brand name client … because none of the other major leagues use them. So … we’re doing what NFL, NHL, MLB and others already have …”
When someone pushed back on Fitzgerald, he said: “USADA claiming they broke up with UFC is not fact. It would absolutely have been tenable if we would continue paying them. They’re in the spin zone. The ufc is simply going with the plan they already have been putting in place, which will still involve an anti doping program … just not theirs.”
McGregor has had a long lay-off from the octagon after severely breaking his leg against Dustin Poirier in July 2021.
McGregor has continued to make headlines despite being out of the game for over two years, with fans blown away by beefed up social media posts, some even saying he appeared to be going for the heavyweight title.
But as he hadn’t rejoined the testing pool until this week, fans have been left waiting, despite three-time Bellator champion Michael Chandler being named has is return opponent back in a welterweight fight back February. No further details have been forthcoming.
The pair also coached against each other on “The Ultimate Fighter”.
Chandler said he was positive the fight would go down on the UFC 300 card.
“My heart of hearts says the biggest fight we’ve seen in a very long time has to go down on the biggest card that the UFC is going to put together since UFC 200, since UFC 100,” Chandler said during an appearance on The MMA Hour.
“My heart of hearts, my gut says we might be waiting until UFC 300.
“Good thing I’ve got a lot of things to keep my busy, and I get an opportunity to train for Conor for a very long time.”
Chandler added he’d be ready whenever McGregor is.
UFC boss Dana White also confirmed “we’ve got ideas” for the historic card, with The Sun reporting that McGregor-Chandler was the frontrunner.