UFC steroid problem?

Performance enhancing drugs in sports has been a problem for a very long time. Yet these sports are still around. When Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds were caught with steroids, the MLB population was in an uproar. But that was never going to be enough to end the American past time. When Barrett Roberts and Chris Cooper confessed to taking steroids in the NFL, football didn’t go away. It seems like almost any professional athlete can take performance enhancing drugs and get away with it. If they get caught, there is a slap on the wrist, a suspension a fine, and then they’re back on the field. This works for almost all main stream sports. NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, but what about the Mixed Martial Art profession?

If you take steroids in any of these other sports, they may help you run faster, jump higher, or increase your stamina to play longer. If steroids are taken in the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), they help you beat the crap out of another person. So not only are you putting yourself at risk with these drugs, you’re putting another human being at risk.

The UFC has been trying to build its reputation as a sport since Royce Gracie helped found it in 1993. In the beginning the

Dana White, President of the UFC

sport had a very hard time gaining support due to its violent nature, and lack of regulation. The league was later sold to the Fertitta brothers, and Dana White was appointed president. The PR work that the current owners put into the UFC is what made it into what it is today. Branching out to the younger generations in the United States, and appealing to their more violent nature, the sport was wildly accepted around the world, but still not at the same level as the NBA or NHL. So when news got out of fighters taking steroids, the National Association of Sports Commissions went to work, but what about the UFC PR manager?

When it came to growing the UFC as a brand, the Public Relations team, lead by former PR manager Jen Wenk, did a great job. But when hit with a controversy that could possibly end the entire sport and the UFC along with it, they are nowhere to be seen. So are they doing their jobs correctly or not? I think that they are doing their jobs perfectly. None of this has been on the news at all. You have to be pretty specific in order to find out anything about the steroid scandal, and every video I’ve seen of president Dana White has him denouncing the use of steroids and totally staying away from the issue with the fighter involved (Chael Sonnen) specifically. He says “I’m not getting involved in this thing. It’s Chael, His people, and the athletic commission that are going to have to work this thing out.”

This video shows Dana White expressing his feelings towards the NASC. He exemplifies his lack of power and therefore the UFC’s lack of responsibility. There are at least two other videos were Dana says the exact same thing, which leads me to believe he was told to say it by his PR manager.

So directing the media away from the UFC and steroids and making this an isolated incident seems to be the play that they are making, and so far it’s working out for them. The UFC is still alive and scheduling fights, and the news of steroid use has been limited to few internet webcasts, and a few disgruntled ant-MMA proponents. But will this work forever?

This strategy is working now, but what will happen when another fighter is found with steroids? Do you think that this strategy will always work?

-Michael Elkins


16 thoughts on “UFC steroid problem?

  1. I believe that every sport will go through this problem; there will always be someone that operates out of the line and/or cut corners anywhere and this makes it harder for everyone else. Depending on the inside work that is being done in this particular field is what is directly going to contribute to this tactic staying effective. This is one incident that has successfully been under wraps for this time, and people are more likely to forget. All the other examples you’ve given in your blog have always had at LEAST two athletes faced with supicision of steroids in the field of other sports. But this is only one incident with a certain niche of followers and fans. I hate to say this, but in the world of sports, steroid use may not be legal or morally right, but it’s almost expected for at least one athlete “cut corners” and not rely on their own strength, will, and endurance.

    In taking all this into consideration, I don’t believe that this tactic will always work. First off, it’s been used before (one too many times), and its success really depends on the level of damage, how many players are caught and/or involved with the incident, and really, the popularity of the sport. UFC does not compete with Baseball, in my opinion. When it was found out that some of the best players were in supicision of using steroids, this was hard to contain from the public.

  2. In general, I have a hard time believing the sport will “die away.” Fight nights at Buffalo Wild Wings are always busy and I remember going one time and there were people standing in the lobby watching because there was no place to sit. It’s like any other job out there, there is going to be that one person that makes a poor decision. That doesn’t mean the whole company or sport in the case is bad, just that one person’s decision and that company or sport would have to figure out how to best deal with it. I am not much of a sports follower, but I haven’t heard anything about it. I think that by White not really addressing and commenting that it is with the player and his manager was probably wise so that he wasn’t led down any slippery slopes. But, I’m sure the sport will have their followers all the same.


  3. If another fighter were found to have taken steroids then the UFC would have to do something. Something along the lines of a campaign against steroids. It would take the focus off the ones found guilt and hopefully rebuild their image. The NHL and NBA get so much leeway its ridiculous. We all know in professional sports athletes will, if not already use steroids. I understand its obviously a lot more dangerous considering these guys are fighting each other. The UFC should be treated no different. Someone should be paying better attention in order to prevent these kinds of problems.

    • There actually has been more than one person that tested positive. I don’t think they all belong to the UFC. However, even Royce Gracie (one of the founders of UFC, and one of it’s most famous fighters) tested positive near the end of his career.

  4. Well first off…. I need to get into PR in an industry where it’s permissible for the top-dog of the organization to swear like a sailor. Ha!

    But seriously though, this is a fascinating issue. It’s one thing to use steroids to hit a baseball an extra hundred feet, but it’s another thing all together to use steroids to punch another person harder in the face.

    I’ve got some interesting connections to both sub-topics of this blog (MMA as well as steroids) that you might be interested to hear.

    One of my good friends got his pro-card awhile back. He competes professionally and also referees in MMA here in Michigan and the surrounding states. While I am still a bit wary of the brutally violent nature of this sport, I do have some interesting insight. My friend, Danny McIntire: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTY8OMUZ7DU is one of the kindest, non-judgmental, positive, friendly, and intelligent people that I know. He just happens to fight for sport. Everyone needs a release, and he found his. Knowing Danny has totally changed the way I would otherwise view MMA.

    Another thing that I’m lucky enough to have is the inside track regarding the steroid scandal. My friend Andy Stejskal and I have been best buds since middle school. His father is the FBI agent that basically spearheaded the pro-sports steroid investigations when they were initially occurring in the late 1980’s, due to concerns voiced by then UM football coach Bo Schembechler. Some of you probably had no idea that Ann Arbor and UM football played an instrumental role in helping to expose the rampant steroid abuse by pro-athletes.

    Here’s some links about my friend Andy’s dad, Greg Stejskal:


    About your question. I think that the use of steroids by MMA professionals is a whole different ballgame when it comes to the possible consequences. As I mentioned before, it’s not a baseball, it’s a face. Therefor I think that this denial of responsibility PR approach will only work with severely isolated instances of steroid abuse, but if it is found to occur with any degree of frequency whatsoever in MMA, it’s leaders will have to accept responsibility and fix the problem, especially due to the already somewhat apprehensive opinions many people currently have with MMA.

    Joe Sloan

  5. I think it is hard to control steroids in any sport, and I agree with Jeleesa that it is almost accepted. But it’s a good thing they made an attempt to make a change. UFC is still not as popular as other sports, so hopefully keeping their athletes off steroids will establish a good reputation. Plus, UFC is more dangerous then most other sports, so if one fighter is using steroids and the other is not, there could be some serious injuries and lawsuits. Great blog!


    • Thanks, I worked pretty hard on this. What a lot of people don’t know is that the big sports like NFL, have their own commissioners that dish out fines and suspensions. The UFC has to deal directly with the government. Also, a fighter is paid by the fight, so if they get suspended their is absolutely no money comming in. Plus they will have to pay fines on top of that.

  6. The UFC has one of the most strick policies when it comes to steroids, with checks for performance enhances, before and after every fight and if one should fail the test then he loses the fight, reguardless if the fight took place or not, for example, fighter Tiago Silva who recently dominated UFC fighter Brandon Vera in a fight took a unanimous decision victory, but when word came back that Brandon failed his drug test then he not only took the fight from a win on his record to a no-contest he was suspended fronm the UFC. The UFC and the fight commession work hand in hand, with the fight commession dealing with the concequences of what shall happen to the fighters, once they fail a drug test. Cheal Sunnon was suppended for a year and fined a bunch of money, and not only did he get involved iin steroid use (after he lost the fight which he used steroids) he got involved in a money scheme as well which involved more of a suspencion for him. Steroid use is one of their biggest checks in the UFC to make sure the fight is a real as it gets.

    The UFC has had few to no scandles and when the scandles occurred then the fighters were sent out of the ufc most times, a good example would be fighter Nate Marquart who perhaps created the UFC’s most recent scandle but is now fighteing for a no-name brand because the UFC is known for its strict policies and Dana puts things on full display when someone is out of line. Cheal was just a very rare case

  7. I don’t think that sports will ever die away either and like some bloggers said here, there will always be that one person that want to cheat his way through and achieve success without having to work hard for it. I don’t think Steroids should be accepted under any circumstances and it is nothing but pure cheating.

    The PR advisors did a good job by ending it right there and not wanting to further talk about it. In the meantime, I don’t think there would be much to say anyways. Athletes get caught, their PR teams try to make sound a little less horrible than it is, and sports go on. However I do like White’s words in this video. It just sounded honest to me and I am leaning more towards believing him.

  8. First of all- love that you did your blog on UFC. I’m a big fan of Jon Jones. Mmm.<3

    But fangirling aside, UFC hasn't been around long enough to compete with the fame of the NFL and MLB, which is why it may be a little tougher to have the sport taken seriously. However, they do have a lot of regulations now in order to keep the fighters safe. I didn't even hear about the steroid thing until now, and honestly I don't think a lot of people would let that stop them from watching the sport. They may no longer like Chael or watch his fights, but Dana could just take him off the pay-per-views and profits would remain steady. Also, if they had a stricter policy against steroid usage, then any issues with this may go away. As far as PR, I think they've been handling it really well, seeing as there hasn't been anything in the news about it. But then again – is this because the UFC isn't really in the news much to begin with? It's hard to tell, but I'm sure that some scandal like this will end the UFC.


  9. You mentioned before how scandal in other circles of sports resulted in little lasting damages – both to the sport itself and those famous enough to skirt away from greater consequences. That kind of leads me to wonder whether this makes steroid usage in this circle is even such a dire, shattering issue.

    Maybe what Silvana said is true – that it’s so young, it’s harder for things to be taken seriously. But what about the serious issue of drug use? I’m not immersed enough in the politics behind sport regulation to make a fair call (I can assume debates on what’s fair are ongoing, which is what makes it an issue in the first place).

    Still, PR people who don’t make mountains out of molehills are ones I’d consider good ones.


  10. Hey Mike,

    I believe there is always going to be someone who wants to make sure their career stays in tact

    or always having a position in whatever sport they are playing. I don’t think its necessary for

    athletes or martial artists to subject them self’s to this type of enhancement it makes other artists

    look bad in my opinion. I just feel the amount of work you tend to commit and put in that’s what

    you get out; I think the only way I would approve of steroids is if the artists had gotten hurt while

    they were in a match and they wanted to continue (used with caution of course.) But other than

    I disapprove of the drug simply because it can damage one’s reputation and it doesn’t help

    anyone in the process.

    Great blog! Jasmine-

  11. The UFC has never faced any type of steroide issue and with the few steroid issues the UFC has faced they’ve punished the fighters horribily, beginning with Chael Sonnen, the UFC only handles punishments reguarding fighting for their orginization, Chael Sonnen faced punishment, taking away his ability to fight for several months after losing the bout against Anderson Silva, being discovered to using steroids during that bout and a money scheme after. UFC has one of the best steroid searches in the sport of MMA, perhaps the best in all of sports. checking their fighters before every fight and IMMEDIATLY after every fight. if a fighter shall get caught using steroids, the UFC and the athletetic state commission has to act on the punishments of the fighter.

    Cheal’s fighting ban has been lifted and now he just won his most recent fight earlier this year against Brian Stann, he’s going to fight again early next year against the man he lost too, while on steroids

  12. This reminds me of the blog on Tom Brady we had a couple of weeks ago. If the PR folks had not been so nervous and shaken but leveled, Brady’s comments would’ve been water on a duck’s tale. But because the PR made a big deal out of it, so did the public. I agree that the UFC PR reps are doing a fantastic job on this scandal by keeping silent. By keeping it silent, you prevent the uproar and the organizations involved can clean the mess up and discipline and all the other good stuff.


  13. There is always going to be a problem with steroids in sports, its so competitive and everybody wants to be the best. Steroids are dangerous and should not be tolerated, especially in sports like wrestling. People could really get seriously injured, not to mention that users are becoming addicts. This is a problem that should be addressed instead of being a secret. These people need help and they may gain more fans by being honest about their problem.

  14. I believe it has to take much more than a few mistakes to end an entire sporting business. Sports are very demanding and sells like crazy. The sells of this sporting company obviously outweighs consequences of the use of steroids any given day. The PR team didn’t elaborate much, which is seen as a good approach. I believe the more you talk, the more chance you have of saying something that could possibly be taken out of content and corrupting another issue for the media to talk about. Athletes go through these things all the time. One person’s poor judgement does not ruin the entire profession. This is why PR exists. Similiar to real life, everyone makes poor decisions because we are human. Although their could be some kind of consequence for the ones using it, it won’t affect UFC as a whole.
    Martise W.

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