(Cheech’s submissions may be legendary, but his cardio is highly suspect)
by Ben Fowlkes
With UFC 84 less than a month away, the issue of drug use among MMA fighters has taken center stage. It’s understandable, at least to a degree. Sean Sherk’s positive steroid test after his title defense last summer put a giant bull’s-eye on his back, even as he continues to proclaim his innocence to anyone who will listen. Both he and Penn came up clean in preliminary tests for their upcoming title fight, but it doesn’t mean the issue has gone away.
A recent MSNBC report would have us believe that this isn’t just an isolated incident or a reflection of the pro sports zeitgeist. Instead, David Avila asks the question, does MMA have a drug culture?
One nameless boxer-turned-MMA fighter claims yes, and it’s not just steroids:
“Oh, the MMA fighters train just as hard as boxers,” said a fighter now working out of Las Vegas who wished to remain anonymous. “But after they train, they party. I mean they drink, they go out. It’s crazy what they do.”
There’s nothing quite like a sweeping generalization to bolster your point, and that’s aside from the fact that training in Las Vegas may be different than training in, say, Minnesota (where Sherk trains) or in the secluded mountains of Big Bear, California (where Tito Ortiz, “Rampage” Jackson, and a host of others go to prepare).
But the UFC’s Marc Ratner – formerly of the Nevada State Athletic Commission – seems to agree:
“I don’t know what to make of it,” said Ratner regarding the large number of MMA fighters failing drug tests compared to boxers. “It’s a different culture.”
The article goes on to quote an MMA writer who suggests that the middle-class background of many MMA fighters may explain the difference in positive tests between boxers and MMA fighters. Boxers are typically poor, he argues, and thus view their shot at a career as “do-or-die”, whereas middle-class MMA fighters are more likely to slack off and use drugs.
This is a strange logic. Are MMA fighters more likely to use recreational drugs because they don’t take their careers as seriously as boxers? If so, how does that fit into the steroid argument?