We’ve already discusses the rules in the UFC on several occasions, so you should by now know how the organisation functions. There are rules related to illegal moves, to weight and to illegal substances, all of which are equally important because they make the game fair and respectable. So, in an ideal world – every fighter respects the rules and there are no cheaters. But it isn’t like that, is it?
The UFC has a relatively rich history of cheaters and we are going to dedicate today’s article to some of the biggest cheating scandals in the organisation. Some of them ruined careers, some of them caused large scandals, but all of them were big stories that illustrate the importance of rules and how cheaters are unwelcome in any sport.
How Can UFC fighters cheat?
Before we head off to individual cases, we’ll briefly show you how UFC fighters can actually cheat. There are three possible ways.
1. By cheating on the scale during weigh in
Fighters have a lot of ways to do that. They could drink a lot of water just before going to the scale, or intentionally starve themselves, depending on the desired goal. Since fighters don’t go to the scale the second before the match, but rather sometime before, there is enough time to manipulate numbers. See our article about how exactly do UFC fighters cut weight.
2. By using illegal moves during a fight
We’ve listed the illegal moves in MMA in some of our earlier articles, so be sure to check them out for a complete list. What we need to and can say here is that a lot of fighters could obscurely break the rules. During a clinch, a fighter might intentionally choke you or close your airflows, he might punch you in parts that are off limits, or he can break the rules in some other way as to get an unfair advantage.
3. By using illegal substances
Illegal substances (also called performance enhancing drugs or PED) are the last thing on our list. This is also the most often seen way of cheating. Doping scandals aren’t exclusive to MMA, they are present in all sports, but we have to state that the UFC has had its fair share of scandals involving illegal substances.
UFC’s Stance on Illegal Substances
We shall now briefly analyse the UFC’s stance on illegal substances, while giving you an introduction into what they are. Performance-enhancing drugs (PED) are a group of different substances that are used to improve the physical performance of humans. They are most often used in sports, but can also be used in a variety of other situations.
While all PED are not prohibited or illegal per se, their usage in sports is strictly regulated, as they can give one fighter an unfair advantage over the other. This means that PED are – in professional and amateur sports – generally prohibited and their usage is strictly controlled.
A variety of anti-doping agencies are active in all sports and they strictly control th usage of PED; this aspect is so important that a violation of anti-doping rules can end the career of a sportsperson in an instant. Just remember the likes of Lance Armstrong or Ben Johnson, but also the scandal that hit Russian sports in recent years.
The types of PED are:
- Anabolic drugs (steroids, hormones, prodrugs, etc.)
- Stimulants (caffeine, ephedrine, methylphenidate, amphetamine, etc.)
- Ergogenic acids (bupropion, creatine, methylphenidate, etc.)
- Biomolecules (creatine, etc.)
- Painkillers (ibuprofen, etc.)
- Sedatives and anxiolytics (ethanol, cannabis, etc.)
- Blood boosters (rhEPO, etc.)
- Gene doping
As we’ve said, anti-doping agencies control the use of these substances; their abuse is severely punished and could end a fighter’s career.
So, what’s the UFC’s stance on doping?
In 2015, the UFC announced that it had signed a contract with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), whereby USADA became the official, independent doping testing agency of the UFC. The anti-doping rules were presented somewhen during the same year. The deal includes a minimum of 2,750 drug tests per year with an average of five tests per fighter, and severe punishments for fighters who fail the tests.
Under the anti-doping rules, fighters are subject to random tests at any time and place on all in- and out-of-competition blood and urine samples collected by USADA.
Fighters must participate in the testing pool for at least six months prior to a fight in order to qualify for a UFC event. In early 2017, UFC made some changes to its anti-doping regulations, which resulted in the following changes:
- New fighters are subject to a one-month testing rule, a change from the earlier four-month
- testing rule;
- Returning fighters (from retirement, a hiatus, etc.) are subject to the six-month testing rule;
- New fighters who admit to having used PED before the testing shall not be subject to
- In-competition testing begins at noon on the weigh-in day and ends one hour after a fighter
- clears a post-fight medical for non-selected post-fight testing. For fighters who are subjected
- to post-fight testing the in-competition testing ends after any post-fight testing is done.
So, how does it all work? In 2015, USADA conducted 353 tests and 2291 tests in 2016 on 586 UFC fighters with Anderson Silva tested the most of a total of 15 times. In 2017 and 2018 a total of 2818 and 2888 tests were conducted by USADA respectively.
Another big change came in 2018, when it was announced that the UFC would not be disclosing the names of prospective violators, after several fighters had been flagged as violators only to be cleared later on (usually due to unintentional consummation via contaminated supplements). The rules were changed once more in 2019, when the list of PED was updated. As of May 16, 2019, a total of 76 UFC fighters have been sanctioned by USADA since the UFC USADA testing program started.
In the following paragraphs, we are going to present to you some of the most famous and notorious cheating scandals in the UFC, so keep reading.
UFC Fighters Caught Cheating:
1) Alistair Overeem
Dutch fighter Alistair Overeem was a genuine sensation when he beat legendary Brock Lesnar into retirement during his UFC debut. That sensational win got him a main card fight at the UFC 146, where he was supposed to fight Junior dos Santos for the Heavyweight Championship title. All was perfect until the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) announced that Overeem had failed a pre-match test, having a crazy 14:1 testosterone-epitestosterone ratio.
This resulted in Overeem losing his spot at the UFC 146 and in him getting a solid 9-month ban. This caused a scandal because the Overeem – dos Santos fight was supposed to be the main event of the night. White quickly reacted and replaced Overeem with Frank Mir, but this still remains as one of the most relevant cheating scandals in the UFC.
2) Nick Diaz
This guy deserves his own article because of how stupid he is. This is a total no-brainer, quite possibly the biggest no-brainer on this list. His record has everything – misses media events, missed fights, incidents inside the cage, incidents outside the cage and so many failed doping tests that it would be too long of a list to name them all.
Diaz is undoubtedly one of the most controversial figures in the UFC, but his notorious reputation would not be that much of a problem were he not a repeated cheater who tarnished his reputation by repeatedly taking illegal substances. So, without being able to stress out one exact scandal, we can only state that each time Diaz’s name comes up, you can only hope that there will be no scandal.
3) Rousimar Palhares
This guy is, like Nate Diaz, worthy of a separate article, but for very different reasons. Diaz is scandalous, he is a no-brainer who lakes to stir things up, but Palhares is just a – cheater. He broke a lot of rule during his relatively short career in the UFC and is infamous for being, quite possibly, the UFC’s biggest cheater.
Although he had a substance-related issue, he is most famous for breaking the rules of conduct, being too savage (the eye gouging incident against Shields) and refusing to listen to the referees when it comes to interrupting submissions and acknowledging tapings. Although fined, punished and reprimanded, Palhares refused to apologise each time, despite his conduct being potentially life-threatening. Due to this, he was kicked out of the UFC for life back in 2015, fined and also stripped of his then-owned belt.
4) Anderson Silva
The legendary Brazilian has had his fair share of fame in the UFC, but a doping scandal tarnished his career not only because of the illegal substances he had been using, but also because of his incredible stupidity. Silva was a long-time undefeated champion in the UFC until, at one point, he lost several fights in a row and was in a pretty tight spot. Whatever he did, he could not regain the title, although his reputation was still relatively untarnished.
And then – the stupid thing happened. The before mentioned NSAC announced that Silva tested positive for steroids. He decided to plead the case before the NSAC, but decided to concoct a stupid story that was torn to shreds when the NSAC realised his timeline was off. Silva told the committee that he had taken Viagra from Thailand that must have had an illegal substance, which he did not know about. The story was utter bull**it and Silva was stupid to even try and cover up his cheating, thereby completely tarnishing his reputation.
5) Thiago Silva
Silva is one of those guys that just can’t get a break. He’s always on the negative lists, he’s always in the centre of a scandal and regularly has issues with the law. I mean, he’s in the centre of some serious illegal stuff, so who can blame the authorities, but hey – who are we to judge?
Due to his legal issues, Silva lost his UFC contract, his reputation and a shot at the Heavyweight Championship title. Since then, his already declining career plummeted even deeper when he failed a USADA test, which resulted in this cheated receiving a $33,750 fine and a year-long ban. Interestingly enough, Silva wasn’t punished for using an illegal substance, but rather for providing a false sample to the commission, so maybe he wasn’t on anything, you know? We’ll know, but what we do know is that he deserves a spot on out list of cheaters in the UFC.
(Note: The specimen he provided wasn’t even human!)
6) Wanderlei Silva
Another Brazilian on our list, Wanderlei Silva is notoriously known for his aggressive combat and a very unorthodox fighting style. Silva is notoriously known for using banned substances and he is one of the few fighters who actually made their careers on being high, which increased their aggression. The problem appeared when the UFC decided to control the use of illegal substances, which effectively ended the careers of fighters like Silva.
During one bout, Silva openly declined to undergo a drug test, a move which ultimately cost him his career and his reputation. His career in the UFC was completely done. The rigorous NSAC fined Silva with $70,000 – a substantial amount – and ultimately issued a lifetime ban, which – as was stated – effectively ended his UFC career. It is absolutely necessary to sanction such behaviour and eliminate such cheaters from the game.
7) Jon Jones
Yes, ladies and gentlemen – Jon Jones, the legendary UFC champion – is also on our list of cheaters in the UFC. Jones is a strong presence in the UFC and one of its legendary champions, but his career was marred by two substance-related incidents that almost ruined his reputation, along with slowing down and practically destroying his whole career.
The first incident cost him his Light Heavyweight title, when it was announced – after the UFC 182 event – that he tested positive for none other than cocaine. Soon after, he was in an accident and was out of the Octagon for a whole year. After his return, he won the interim title, but ultimately lost that too, after another failed drug test. He was stripped of his title, fined and banned for another year. Just imagine what two years can do to a professional UFC career?!
On the other hand, there are some cases when UFC fighters got away with cheating, here are the few:
That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more information on martial arts and combat sports and see you next time!