Performance enhancing drug use has been a huge source of controversy throughout the world of sports in recent years. But, it’s of particular concern in sports like MMA, where a stated goal is to damage and render unconscious an opponent.

UFC middleweight contender Tim Kennedy described the current MMA climate as “the Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire era” — a time when PED use is rampant, and drug testing mostly ineffective. The athletes who cheat can flourish, while those who refuse to use steroids and other PED’s, Kennedy would argue, are the ones who suffer.

Currently, UFC generally uses the drug protocol of whatever area they’re running an event. Some, like Nevada, include protocol for enhanced testing which has proven more effective. Out of competition testing in Nevada has resulted in issues for UFC stars like Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, and Wanderlei Silva in the last year.

Other jurisdictions have no standards in place at all.

Kennedy, like Georges St-Pierre and others, called for random, out of competition drug testing for UFC fighters to better combat the problem — and according to new reports, they may be getting their way.

Yesterday, Marc Ratner, the UFC president of regulatory affairs, told ESPN that a random, out-of-competition drug testing program is to begin implementation this year.

“We are meeting with different companies right now and we’re going to have out-of-competition testing,” Ratner said. “We’re not sure when it’s going to start, but we’re working on it right now.”

“Unannounced blood and urine (testing) is going to happen, hopefully in the next three or four months. When you’re talking about 500 fighters, there are a lot of logistics. Having fighters in foreign countries makes it tougher, but we’re coming up with a plan and (agencies) are making proposals to us in the next two weeks.”

According to Ratner, the UFC is looking to partner with an independent drug testing agency. The selection of an independent testing agency was an issue in last year’s St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks bout, where both fighters initially agreed to an enhanced testing protocol, but saw the agreement fall apart.

The Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency hailed the UFC’s move on Twitter:

Caged Insider will update the story as more information is announced.