LAS VEGAS -- A drug problem exists within the UFC that needs to be eradicated, though there is yet to be a comprehensive anti-drug policy in the world's largest mixed martial arts promotion.
On Thursday, two current world champions and three former champions expressed disgust over the use of performance enhancing drugs in the sport and were critical of former UFC fighter Chael Sonnen for his back-to-back test failures.
Ex-lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn, who faces Frankie Edgar in the main event of "The Ultimate Fighter Finale" Sunday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, has long been outspoken about the use of anabolic steroids. But he said he was shocked to learn that there are fighters using EPO and HGH in the UFC. Sonnen tested positive for both of those drugs in a random test ordered by the Nevada Athletic Commission on June 5.
"You know, I always knew that steroids were around," Penn said when asked if he felt he ever faced an opponent who used PEDs. "But now, I always wondered if it was a myth about this HGH and EPO stuff. But now it's come out to light that this stuff is actually there and people are actually using it, people you don't expect to be using it. You know? With that said, you don't know who is on anything. This is a sport like anything else and for these people, although it is straight up, nothing different than stealing, the ends justifies the means for these guys."
UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey said she felt the penalties on fighters who tested positive aren't strong enough. She said she'd like to see the UFC and the various state athletic commissions that regulate the sport adopt a stronger stance that is much more in line with the way PEDs are handled in the Olympics.
Rousey, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo who defends her title Saturday against Alexis Davis in the co-main event of UFC 175 at Mandalay Bay, said the punishments aren't severe enough to serve as a deterrent.
"If you are caught with a PED in the Olympics, you are out from the next Olympics and you can't even compete until after that," she said. "So that's up to an eight-year ban. I think eight years is pretty good. It's been working pretty good for the U.S. Still, we have people slip up. But I think the reason why [fighters] keep trying to test that border is that there is not really that much punishment afterward.
"You have to pay a little fine and take a year off? People take a year off and go on vacation all the time. That fine costs a vacation, so pretty much, you get the year off without the vacation. I really do think there should be much more strict enforcement of the rules, possibly career-ending things like that because if people think they might get away with it, they're going to try."
Former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion Urijah Faber, who meets Alex Caceres on the UFC 175 preliminary card, had harsh words for Sonnen, even though the two are friends and share the same management.
During an interview with MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani, Faber pulled no punches.
"Here's the thing: Chael is a guy who has cheated to win," Faber said. "As far as him and his moral standing and as a friend and as an individual, he's a stand-up dude. But if you're his enemy, or someone competing against him, it seems like he'll bend the rules on occasion."
Middleweight champion Chris Weidman, who defends against Lyoto Machida on Saturday in the main event, was originally supposed to be facing Vitor Belfort. Belfort, who failed a post-fight drug screen in 2006 when he fought in a Pride event in Las Vegas, also failed a surprise test given to him by the Nevada commission in February.
But despite that failure, Belfort was going to go forward and apply for a license despite his use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) until it was banned on Feb. 27 by the Nevada commission. Later that day in a bizarre move, Belfort announced he wouldn't fight on the card and would delay his attempt to get a Nevada license.
Belfort has been saying that he's been told by UFC officials that he will fight the Weidman-Machida winner for the title in his next fight. That is an outrageous breach by the UFC, and a clear lack of sensitivity to a signficant issue. No one involved in the UFC should say or plan anything for Belfort until after he gets licensed by the Nevada commission, which is far from a certainty.
But Weidman said if he were to beat Machida and be forced to fight Belfort, he'd demand random, unannounced drug testing be part of the contract for the bout.
"If I'm fighting Vitor, he's going to be tested," Weidman said. "He's been caught twice now. Last time I saw him, I saw on his back, right back by his shorts, there was, like, a little tail hanging out. He's becoming like a horse, he's got so much testosterone. I think he needs to be tested as much as possible because he's been known to fail tests."
Weidman said he is a friend of Sonnen's and fully supported him after hearing Sonnen's explanation for his May 23 drug test failure. In that test, he tested positive for anastrozole and clomiphene, but explained it was because of his post-cycle therapy off TRT and to help with a fertility issue.
But Nevada cleverly tested Sonnen again. Sonnen, who was supposed to fight first Wanderlei Silva and then Belfort at UFC 175, came up positive for EPO and HGH in the June 5 test. He retired six days earlier and was fired from his position as a broadcaster for Fox Sports on Monday.
"I felt terrible for Chael after he came out with his first statement," Weidman said. "He got me completely on his side. I could understand where he was coming from. Vitor and Wanderlei, I wasn't on their side. I think they've obviously been doing something. Vitor got tested and he was way over on his TRT levels, but Chael, I felt bad for.
"Then those second tests came out. Look, I love Chael to death, but it just kind of opens up your eyes with what some guys could be doing. It pissed me off. So I want guys to be tested as much as possible. Do blood tests, whatever can be done to get this."
Edgar, a former lightweight champion, said he wasn't in favor of random drug testing of all fighters because he said he's not using anything and he didn't feel he should have to be tested because others were cheating.
But he said he'd agree to it if it would help rid the sport of PEDs.
"I ain't doing a thing so I don't understand why they'd want to test me, but if that's what it takes to get rid of this stuff, then OK, let's do it," Edgar said.