It is a brave knight who suits up to slay a dragon, and a fool who dons that same armor only to chase after windmills. Which is the UFC?
Yesterday, with all the fanfare worthy of a paradigm-shifting major policy change, UFC brass Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana White and Ike Epstein spoke on the topic of the performance-enhancing drug epidemic to the press gathered before them in Las Vegas. There was acknowledgment of the problem – that Anderson Silva, Hector Lombard, et al. are all symptoms of a greater ill afflicting the sport – and there was a general outlining of a solution. There will be more testing, the covering of costs for athletic commissions to do the extra testing legwork, and even much harsher penalties. But at the end of the day, what does it all mean? Is it enough to clean up what is very clearly a dirty sport? Or is the UFC simply doing their best Don Quixote de la Mancha impression and charging at something they can never hope to defeat?
Sometimes, the effort matters as much as the result – and in this instance, if the UFC is true to their stated intentions, their efforts mean a whole hell of a lot.
Regardless of how many fighters are caught after the July 1 ramping up of out-of-competition testing, and regardless of how many cheaters are banished from the Octagon for two to four years, the most important thing is that the UFC gave enough of a crap to try.
Over 20 years ago, MMA was being built upon a foundation of synthetic hormones, anabolics and hypodermic needles, and it took climbing quite a few seemingly insurmountable mountains just to get athletic commissions to take this thing in the cage seriously. But now they do, and when it comes to fixing the sport, the organization that invariably represents everything to do with MMA takes its role as industry leader seriously as well.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said White yesterday, and he’s right. Many more heroes will tumble from grace, and many more events will go into the toilet because of falling stars. What’s important, though, it when that dragon’s rampage made the countryside aflame, the UFC leveled its lance and charged.