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Signing Cris Cyborg Would Put a Spotlight on the UFC’s Drug Problem — And That’s a Good Thing


(A vision of a terrifying future? / Photo via FightNext)

By Trent Reinsmith

On July 5 UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey positively destroyed #2 ranked contender Alexis Davis. The fight, UFC 175’s co-main event, was Rousey’s fourth UFC title defense, and lasted just 16 seconds, making it the second shortest title fight in UFC history. The fight was so short that the UFC didn’t even make a highlight video available. If they had, it would have been the entire bout.

Leading into the contest, commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg tried to sell fans that Davis was going to be a tough test for Rousey. She wasn’t. Davis landed a total of two strikes during the fight, while Rousey landed 16. Most of Rousey’s strikes came after she kneed Davis to the body and threw her to the ground. Once on the mat, Rousey unloaded a series of punches to Davis’ head, and Yves Lavigne mercifully waved off a fight that had to leave some wondering why the matchup was booked in the first place.

At the post-fight media scrum, UFC president Dana White fielded the inevitable question: When will the UFC sign the one female fighter that many feel will give Rousey some true competition, Cris “Cyborg” Justino? Instead of dismissing the question with a tirade about managers, drugs, weight cutting and death — which is White’s usual play — he turned the question around to the media in attendance and asked if they wanted him to sign Justino to the UFC.

White found only one media member that was opposed to the organization signing the current Invicta FC featherweight champion.

After polling the media, White said he didn’t want to hear the media’s “bullshit” if he does sign Justino. “This shit is going to fucking flip as soon as I sign her, about drug testing and all the other bullshit. It will be the biggest fucking topic. It will be the biggest fucking story for you guys to write on whether she’s — oh my fucking God. The script will flip immediately.”

During the conversation White heard Yahoo.com’s Kevin Iole opine that if Vitor Belfort gets to fight in the UFC, so should Justino.

Iole’s point addressed the fact that Belfort, who failed a 2006 drug test, and a 2014 (out of competition) drug test was mentioned as a potential opponent for UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman following Weidman’s successful title defense against Lyoto Machida in UFC 175’s main event.

Iole made a valid point with his statement. White did as well, but probably not the one he wanted to make.

White does not get to pick and choose what the media that covers the sport of MMA, and specifically his organization, writes and talks about. Yes, he does a good job of controlling the message through bombast, insults, and myth-making, and he does have the ear of the fans, but so what? If White signs Justino to the UFC (and he should), he’s going to hear from MMA media about Justino’s less-than-pristine history with PEDs and drug testing — just like he’s going to hear about these uncomfortable topics whenever Belfort’s next fight is announced, especially if that Belfort fight is scheduled for anywhere except Las Vegas.

Throughout her career there has been a great deal of speculation about Justino’s use of steroids, and she did in fact fail a 2011 drug test, testing positive for stanozolol metabolites. Justino served a one-year suspension for that failed test. What often gets overlooked is that since that time, Justino passed a 2014 random drug test administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC).

Knowing that Justino has a recently passed random drug test in her back pocket, I’d be much more comfortable with the UFC signing her than I would be with the promotion handing Belfort a title fight directly after his own failed test.

If Justino is signed and booked to fight Rousey, that fight needs to take place in Las Vegas because the state of Nevada has recently shown that they are getting serious with their testing procedures, particularly through random testing. That fact was in evidence when they recently nabbed Chael Sonnen twice for prohibited substances, including human growth hormone (HGH) and recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO).

Justino should have to go through a stringent regime of in-competition and out-of-competition testing if the UFC does sign her, and that testing should be administered by an organization like the NSAC.

Nevada is also where the potential Weidman vs. Belfort contest needs to be booked. With the cloud that hangs over his head, Belfort and the UFC need to get fans to believe he is truly clean before he steps into the Octagon to fight for a title. That won’t happen if he fights in Brazil, or anywhere outside of Las Vegas.

Belfort is going to have to face the NSAC and talk about his failed test, and if they license him to fight in the state, he should have a pamphlet of stipulations that go along with that licensing. One of the biggest stipulations needs to be a robust random drug testing regiment — both in and out of competition.

UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner recently said that the UFC’s goal is to clean up the sport. White has a chance to take some steps toward making that a reality by booking Belfort in Las Vegas, and by signing Justino to a contract.

White does not get to choose what the MMA media writes about, but he does he get to choose who fights for the UFC and where they fight. By signing Justino and booking her to fight in Vegas, and having Belfort fight in Vegas, it will be a good first step toward removing some taint from the sport, and the UFC.

My suggestion? The UFC should sign Justino and book her against Rousey on the same fight card as Weidman vs. Belfort and use that event to highlight the progress that the NSAC and UFC are making toward cleaning up MMA.

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