UFC and USADA split: Anti-doping partnership set to end in January

UFC fighters will have some major changes coming their way in 2024, with the company confirmed to be ending their relationship with USADA.

After a lengthy contract with the anti-doping organisation, a statement was released on Wednesday evening revealing there would be an overhaul next year. 

As of January 1st, USADA will no longer govern the company’s drug testing regime, with no clarification at this stage over the future of the regulations within the MMA juggernaut. 

The news comes as former dual-division champion Conor McGregor revealed he had re-entered the six-month testing pool, with the hopes of a return in early-2024 against an unconfirmed opponent.

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Why did USADA and UFC split?

In a lengthy statement released by the agency, it was revealed the UFC had done a backflip on renewal talks and will now revamp their own anti-doping program moving forward.

“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,” the statement said. 

“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 statement would also take aim at the impending return of McGregor, who under their rules would need to be in the testing pool for six months, but could now be back on deck sooner than expected. 

“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,” it said.

“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.”

How did UFC stars react to USADA decision?

At this stage, there has not been any genuine stance taken by the fighters on the UFC-USADA split.

However, some competitors have opted to take to social media and poke fun at the decision, including former flyweight champion Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson. 

Over the years, the likes of high-profile stars Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones have been pinged for doping-related offences, while Australian heavyweight Mark Hunt has been embroiled in a lengthy legal battle over the company’s policy relating to performance-enhancing drugs. 

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