Coker ok with uniform drug testing policy if all support it

February 16, 2015

MMA Junkie reports on Bellator’s Scott Coker addressing the need for uniform MMA drug testing.

Coker indicated his approval for a “worldwide testing policy” for MMA.  However, he stated that “everyone would have to support it” lest it not work.  Obviously, we may infer Coker is alluding to the UFC which is in need of a solution to its recent influx of fighters failing drug tests.

But, the UFC is not the only one with drug issues.  Coker had four of his fighters fail drug tests at Bellator 127 last year.  Coker indicated that the commissions, which regulate the fights in the states where the company holds events, administer the drug tests.  He did not attest to what was done prior to taking over Bellator.  He stated that he reached out to all of his fighters about fighting clean after Bellator 127.

The Mohegan Department of Athletic Regulation (MDAR) will administer the drug tests for Bellator’s next event February 27th.  MDAR conducts “out of competition” drug testing in addition to its standard testing.

Payout Perspective:

While Coker’s call for a uniform policy of drug testing sounds positive, it can do more by being the leader in drug testing for the sport rather than calling for all organizations to abide by the same set of rules.  Calling for a “worldwide testing policy” seems like Bellator is putting the drug issue into UFC’s lap to make a move first.  Certainly, if Bellator adopted a stringent drug policy it would make a statement about its commitment to integrity in the sport.  Coker talking to his fighters about fighting clean is a good thing but I’m sure this will not be a deterrent for some fighters looking for any advantage that they can get.

Silva and Diaz fail drug tests prior to UFC 183

February 3, 2015

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz have failed drug tests.  Silva tested for two types of performance enhancing drugs.  Diaz tested positive for marijuana use.

The report indicates that Silva tested positive for two anabolic steroids: drostanolone and androstane.  The test occurred “out of competition” (as defined by WADA) as the test administered on Silva occurred on January 9th but it was not discovered until today, February 3rd.  Diaz had marijuana metabolites in his system.  Its the third time that Diaz has been caught.

Commission chairman Francisco Aguilar stated to Iole that he does not know why the commission received the test results so late.  If the commission received them prior to UFC 183, Aguilar would have not allowed Silva to fight.

The UFC made this statement on Silva:

“On February 3, 2015, the UFC organization was notified by the Nevada State Athletic Commission that Anderson Silva tested positive for Drostanolone metabolites on his Jan. 9 out of competition drug test. UFC’s understanding is that further testing will be conducted by the Commission to confirm these preliminary results.”

“Anderson Silva has been an amazing champion and a true ambassador of the sport of mixed martial arts and the UFC, in Brazil as well as around the world. UFC is disappointed to learn of these initial results.”

“The UFC has a strict, consistent policy against the use of any illegal and/or performance enhancing drugs, stimulants or masking agents by its athletes.”

UPDATED:  The UFC has issued a statement on Diaz:

“The UFC has been notified by the Nevada State Athletic Commission that Nick Diaz has tested positive for marijuana metabolites following his fight with Anderson Silva at UFC 183 on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas, Nev. The UFC has a strict, consistent policy against the use of any illegal and/or performance enhancing drugs, stimulants or masking agents by our athletes. As a result of his positive test, Diaz has been informed that he has violated the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy and Promotional Agreement with Zuffa, LLC. The UFC organization will fully respect the Commission’s final decision relating to Diaz at a disciplinary hearing set for February 17.”

Payout Perspective:

Interesting enough, Silva stated this to MMA Junkie late last year about those that use PEDs:

“This is not bad for me, this is bad for the sport,” Silva told MMAjunkie. “People around the world love the UFC, but the kids love the UFC, and the families love UFC. It’s bad for the sport. I don’t think this is good because the sport can change the lives of the kids and the people in the world.”

“When the guys test for the steroids, (they should have) no more fights,” Silva said. “When you use the steroids, you use them for a long time. When you use the steroids for a long time, you have a problem. It’s a drug and it’s not good for the sport.”

Until now, Silva has a documented history of being clean.  Maybe it was recovering from his horrific leg injury that caused him to want to take PEDs but that is not an excuse.  This mark on his career is unfortunate and does not bode well for his legacy in the sport.  For the UFC, this is a disaster as the first two big events of the year, its two biggest stars have failed drug tests.  As Silva pointed out, it’s bad for the sport.  It’s also bad for UFC business.  The Diaz drug test is less surprising but still not good for the company.

A story to continue to follow is how was it that the commission did not receive the test result prior to UFC 183.  We saw a similar mishap with the out of competition testing of Jon Jones.


Jones offers his side of story in Fox Sports interview

January 21, 2015

Jon Jones conducted an interview with Charissa Thompson of Fox Sports Live which aired Monday night to explain himself about failing a December 4th drug test.  The interview attempts to provide some answers about Jones and the reasons why he tested positive for cocaine.

Jones stated he “messed up” when asked about why he would do cocaine so close to his big fight against Daniel Cormier at UFC 182.

Jones also explains why his stint in drug rehab only lasted a night.  Jones stated that doctors evaluated him and determined that he could be treated on an “outpatient” basis which meant he did not have to stay in the facility.

Payout Perspective:

Essentially the interview is a form of damage control for the UFC and Fox as it tries to form the narrative for Jones in the days to come.  Obviously cocaine use is not what you want from your top star.  It’s clear that the UFC needs him and wants him active since he was only fined $25,000 for violation of the company’s code of conduct and not also suspended or stripped of his light heavyweight title.  Thompson was likely picked to do the interview over another Fox Sports personality because she adds a professional, yet softer tone than others.

These types of “mea culpa” interviews attempt to paint the individual in a positive light.  The interview made Jones look serious, contrite and as someone that was sorry for his actions.  Did the interview make Jones seem more like he made an honest mistake?

A point in the interview Jones states he did not know if the drug test results found him positive for cocaine use when he was at UFC 182 weigh-ins.  Its also interesting that Jones never attempted to withdraw from the fight after he was told by Dana White that he had failed the December 4th drug test.

It is interesting that he is positive that he is not addicted to cocaine, yet made the decision to do it, knowing he would have to take a drug test for his fight at UFC 182.  Even if he did not believe he would be tested for narcotics, you would think Jones would have to be concerned with the possibility that it could show up.  So, why would a professional athlete that only used cocaine recreationally in college do it now?

One of the underlying issues to keep an eye on in the future is whether Jones will seek any legal action for the release of the test results.  He was noncommittal about this during the interview.

Jon Jones exits rehab after one night

January 13, 2015

A Binghamton, New York station first reported that Jon Jones left rehab after just one night.  The report comes from Jones’ mother who spoke with WBNG’s Travis Eldridge.

The UFC light heavyweight champion is scheduled to be in attendance to watch his brothers Chandler and Arthur Jones play against each other in the AFC Championship game on Sunday afternoon in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  Coincidentally, he will be at the game while the UFC holds a Fight Night in Boston.

Jones’ mom stated that she was “glad” that her son was caught as it “stopped him in his tracks.”

The article states that despite the one night stay in rehab Jones is getting “more educated on the subject.”

Payout Perspective:

The news is surprising and one may only surmise that his stint in rehab amounted just to public relations.  Do you think the UFC, Dana White and Reebok are really pleased with Jones’ one night stay?  Unless Jones decides to re-admit himself and/or does something more than just “educate” himself, the rehab stint is hollow.

An aside to this news is that Jones will be at the Patriots/Colts game at Foxboro.  As we know, the game runs opposite UFC Fight Night 59 on FS1.  We will see if CBS picks up on the third Jones brother watching his other two playing.  Also, it will be interesting to see if someone attempts to interview Jones at the game.

Reebok issues statement in support for Jones

January 7, 2015

Reebok issued a statement yesterday in support of UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones.  The UFC clothing partner recently signed an individual sponsor deal with Jones.

Via MMA Junkie:

“We commend Jon for taking the necessary steps to address this issue, and we will support him in any way we can.  The status of Jon’s relationship with Reebok has not changed.”

You may recall Jones stating that he lost his Nike deal due to the media day brawl with Daniel Cormier.  Then, during a UFC 182 media session, Jones indicated that he misspoke and he actually severed ties with the Beaverton, Oregon company prior to the brawl.

Recently, Jones announced a partnership with Fantasy Sports operator DraftKings.  There has not been an official statement on Jones from the company as of yet.

Payout Perspective:

It’s no surprise that Reebok is supporting Jones at this point.  The recent deal with the UFC and its individual deal with the light heavyweight champ seems to have solidified its position.  It has followed the UFC’s strategy in conveying support for Jones in a time of personal need for him.  From a business and PR perspective, it positions the company as sympathetic of an individual with a problem.  It also allows for a “rebirth” of sorts when Jones returns.

Pettis Wheaties box revealed

December 5, 2014

At a UFC media event this week in lead up to this Saturday’s event, Wheaties unveiled the Anthony Pettis box donning his image.  Pettis won a contest this past summer to determine which next sports star should be the face of the cereal box.

Pettis is the first MMA fighter to have his image on the trademark Wheaties box.

Payout Perspective:

It’s a nice, creative image which takes advantage of Pettis’ GQ good looks yet still puts him in a position where the casual person can tell he’s an MMA fighter. The timing of the event works out as its added publicity for Pettis and the UFC for this Saturday’s PPV.  With the Reebok announcement made on Tuesday, perhaps the Pettis-Wheaties partnership will be short-lived.  But, maybe the UFC could be making inroads with Wheaties to make it an official sponsor.

Varner kicks, chokes Phoenix Gorilla in Suns PSA

November 29, 2014

UFC Lightweight Jamie Varner shot a public service announcement for the Phoenix Suns which aired in the arena during a Phoenix Suns game.  As part of the PSA, Varner promoted the UFC’s upcoming UFC on Fox event in Phoenix.

The PSA is the standard general announcement given before most sporting events.  Varner and the Phoenix Gorilla offer some comic relief in the skit as Varner gives the promo in a cage and kicks and chokes out the Gorilla for not following the rules.

Via UFC’s Facebook page:

Post by UFC.

Payout Perspective:

Good exposure for Varner and his gym which is in the Phoenix area. The PSA is a good tie-in to the upcoming UFC on Fox 13 card coming to Phoenix December 13th. Varner is slated to fight Drew Dober on the prelim card of the event.

Bellator fights at Monster Energy event

October 15, 2014

Bellator announced that it will have four MMA fights at the 2014 Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas this Saturday, October 18th.  The fights will take place at the entrance to Sam Boyd Stadium where the Supercross event will take place.

Via Bellator press release:

Bellator MMA and Monster Energy have taken the next step in their dynamic brand alliance as the 2014 Monster Energy Cup will play host to four MMA fights inside the Monster Energy Hexagon featuring a collection of Bellator fighters. The Monster Energy Cup will be hosted on Saturday, October 18th from Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium and feature top Supercross talent from around the world competing for a one million dollar prize.

“The Monster Energy Cup is a hallmark Monster event and having four Pro MMA bouts before the race is a game-changing addition — Bellator’s support will definitely elevate and amplify the overall event and fan experience this year.” said Monster Energy Director Of Action Sports Cody Dresser.

“This was a unique opportunity to align two hugely exciting brands in Bellator and Monster, and we are excited to be a part of it,” Bellator President Scott Coker said. “I know over 50,000 people will be in attendance for the Monster Energy Cup on October 18th and those fans are also going to be treated to some incredible action inside the cage before the racing begins. There is a huge crossover in terms of demographics so this made all the sense in the world to collaborate on this, and take the next step in our partnership with Monster Energy.”

Monster Energy Bellator

Payout Perspective:

This will be an interesting event for Bellator that should gain some crossover recognition from the crowd attending the Supercross event.  But, how many fans will this capture for the Bellator brand?  Although Coker is quoted as saying that 50K will be at the event, it’s not clear what impact it will have for the organization.  While the demos may be the same, having fights for the sake of fights might not work.

Le expected to appeal suspension

October 9, 2014

ESPN reports that Cung Le is expected to appeal his one-year UFC suspension for testing positive for elevated levels of human grown hormone (hGH).  The appeal provides a unique scenario in which a UFC fighter will appeal a drug suspension to the UFC acting in the capacity of regulatory authority.

Dana White confirmed that Le has a right to file an appeal which will be overseen by a third-party arbitrator.  The arbitration will be through the American Arbitration Association which is standard for many contracts where there are arbitration clauses.

White states in the article that a WADA-certified lab was not used to collect the blood samples for the August 23rd fight card in Macau because the drug testing was decided upon that week.  Le’s manager notes that there was a WADA-approved lab in Beijing, China but was not used.  A Hong Kong contracted lab was utilized instead.

No date has been set for the arbitration.

Payout Perspective:

A look at a standard UFC contract indicates that a fighter may appeal to a regulatory body and/or commission that oversee drug testing.  However, we presume that the UFC was not named as an entity a fighter could appeal to as the ESPN piece initially indicated that Le’s appeal was “breaking news.”  If Le’s contract with the UFC had language that he could appeal his drug suspension to whatever entity was regulating the drug tests, it would not really be breaking news.  This poses the question of what the UFC should do in the future with more international cards on the horizon yet know concrete policy in place on how to address testing and the potential for appeals of the process.

Le’s appeal will be an interesting case considering the points raised by Le’s manager in response to the positive drug test.  Initially thought as damage control, it appears that Le might have raised viable case against the test results. In the end, it points to a problem for the UFC.

Royce Gracie signed by Bellator as Promotional Brand Ambassador

October 8, 2014

Bellator MMA announced on Wednesday that UFC Hall of Famer has become a Promotional Brand Ambassador for the company via press release.

Via Bellator Press Release:

Known simply as the pioneer of mixed martial arts, Royce Gracie is widely considered the most influential and important figure the sport has seen. Engaging in some of the most memorable fights in MMA history during his time with the UFC and PRIDE Fighting Championships, Gracie has now joined Bellator as an official brand ambassador for the Viacom-owned promotion.

“I have known Scott [Coker] for a long time and have always respected him as not only a promoter but as a martial artist who has always treated fighters with respect and truly understands their value,” Gracie said. “Bellator and Viacom want to give fans exciting fights and enable fighters to continue to grow and most importantly provide for their family, and it’s something I want to be a part of. UFC has done a great job over the past twenty years in building this sport and taking it globally and I’m glad to have been part of that, but Bellator is a growing organization I am honored to be a part of, and with the dedicated and talented people already associated with the company, we can further the growth of mixed marital arts as a sport worldwide.”

Gracie will immediately be involved with Bellator including promotion for Bellator 131, which is headlined by a light heavyweight showdown between Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar, along with a Lightweight Title fight between Michael Chandler and Will Brooks on November 15. Moving forward Gracie will host seminars, be involved in autograph and promotional appearances, as well as aiding in the International expansion of Bellator around the world. Bellator and Gracie will also be involved in a co-branded merchandise line that will debut in 2015.

Gracie named as brand ambassador

Payout Perspective:

It does not sound like there will be ill will between Gracie and the UFC as there was with Randy Couture’s departure.  Of course, we have not heard from Dana White.  Still, Gracie was not an active part of the UFC promotional machine.  The addition of Gracie means more for Bellator than it does for the UFC to lose him as a potential ambassador. The deal for Gracie sounds promising assuming his compensation is tied to his appearances as well as receiving a portion of the merchandise sales from co-branded merchandise.

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