Ok, so quoting Shakespeare’s Richard III might be a bit dramatic (pun intended). But, picogram is now a word embedded into the mixed martial arts lexicon, and like Richard’s twisted spine, might impair the legacy of Jon Jones’s reign over the Light Heavyweight division. The lead up to, and aftermath of, UFC 232 will stick with fighters and fans alike for years to come, with repercussions that I sincerely hope will not overly damage the sport that we all love and cherish so much.
Of course we all know that Jon Jones tested positive for Turinabol metabolites both pre and post fight. It’s not that fighters haven’t tested positive for PEDs before, or even that Jon Jones himself hasn’t tested positive before. But the rub this time is the uncharacteristically myopic decision of UFC brass to not only allow Jones to fight, but maintain his title afterward. This in my opinion, damages the long-term credibility and marketability of not only the UFC, but also of the sport of MMA.
The UFC being broadcasted on ESPN is a huge deal, seriously! Think about it. The National Football League is approaching its 100th season. Major League Baseball has been around for about 150 years. What the UFC has accomplished in only 25 years is unheard of. Additionally, the UFC has done more for the advancement of women’s sports and athletes than any other sports organization. These incredible feats are due in large part, if not entirely, to Dana White, and his uncanny eye for long-term planning and investment in both his company and the sport.
For an organization that transformed the image of mixed martial arts from backyard bareknuckle brawlers into consummately professional fighters to risk everything that it has meticulously built over the last two and a half decades is what baffles me. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The UFC /ESPN deal could be a make-or-break situation for MMA becoming a mainstream American sport. And in order to do so, there is a level of fidelity and integrity that must be maintained.
Just look at the Major League Baseball steroid scandal of the 90’s and 00’s. It was such a big deal that Congress held a hearing concerning and then commissioner Bud Selig was called in to testify. Today there is a serious conundrum as to whether or not many of the great players of that era will be enshrined in the hall of fame; players who would have otherwise had been first-ballot shoe-ins.
The UFC had the opportunity to make a zero-tolerance statement and help thrust MMA into the legitimate realm of professional American sports. Instead, by normalizing “pulsating picograms” the UFC has set a dangerous precedent, and in my opinion and at the very least, stymied the advancement of the credibility of professional mixed martial arts. With Jon Jones set to fight Anthony Smith on March 2 at UFC 235, the UFC will find itself in a seemingly insurmountable quandary should Jones test positive again.
As fans and advocates of the sport, the UFC leaves us with the hope that this time they would right their wrongs and adhere to the same PED free fidelity as other professional American sports. We are left with the hope that this time they would step up and do what’s best for the long-term future, credibility and integrity of MMA. Lastly, we are left with the hope that now will not be the winter of our (and the UFC’s) discontent.