The martial arts world is no stranger to controversies, but recent events have taken the community by storm. The heart of the storm? The UFC’s surprising announcement to sever its long-standing eight-year relationship with the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). The decision, which coincided with whispers of Conor McGregor’s potential return, ignited a fiery debate between grappling sensation, Gordon Ryan, and MMA heavyweight, Mark Hunt.
Submission grappling maestro, Gordon Ryan, a five-time ADCC champion, unabashedly celebrated this split. Through his eyes, the world of sports, particularly MMA, boils down to entertainment.
Drawing from his statements, Ryan opined, “The reason people watch professional sports is almost exclusively for entertainment value. Few people who watch pro sports have any real desire to excel at those same sports, so really, they are just watching for the most entertainment. The higher the testosterone, the more physical the athletes are, the less prone to injury they are, the faster they recover, the longer they can compete, and the more entertaining and high-paced they are. The better they look, the more attention they draw, the more money they make.”
He further commented on the burgeoning business of dodging drug tests, painting it as a “multi-billion dollar industry”. And in what appeared as a remedy to this ‘imbalance’, Ryan argued, “This creates an uneven playing field. If there’s no testing, then every athlete can use what he or she wants, and the playing field is now level.”
These sentiments, however, found a fierce opponent in MMA veteran Mark Hunt. A man who has faced the sour taste of PED-related injustices, Hunt’s rebuttal to Ryan was stinging: “What does this idiot know about fighting @gordonlovesjiujitsu maybe have at least one proper fight before u start talking dikhead. Maybe I should get on the sauce and stomp your face see how u like it.”
Ryan, never one to back down, responded equally assertively, stating, “If you read the post, you’d either see the validity of the arguments or offer up a decent rebuttal that was factually based. We can fight anytime you’d like. You may very well knock me out before I get hold of a leg… but then again, you may also not. And I’m very willing to take my chances. Miserable f–k.”
As if this verbal joust wasn’t electrifying enough, Bellator Middleweight powerhouse Johnny Eblen weighed in with his perspective. With a pristine 14-0 record and an unyielding stand on doping, Eblen’s critique of Ryan was scathing. “Not that I’m trying to stir up any unwarranted drama, but Gordan Ryan just stated that MMA should allow athletes to be on steroids because it would supposedly make it more entertaining,” Eblen began. He went on, “Hey bro, there’s a reason your health sucks and it has a lot to do with you wanting to be an ‘entertainer.’ Athletes are humans too and there’s a life after fighting. Steroids and other performance enhancers destroy the possibility of a good functioning life as you age.”
Eblen further delineated the danger of PEDs in MMA, stating, “One thing is taking steroids when you grapple, and another is when you’re getting punched, kneed, elbowed, and kicked in the face.”
The shifting dynamics of drug testing in MMA, with USADA making its exit in favor of Drug Free Sport International (DFSI) and the involvement of George Piro, guarantees that this debate is here to stay. As the lines blur between entertainment, sportsmanship, and health, the MMA community will need to decide where its priorities lie.