Tapping Out

July 14, 2011

Boy have I got a rant for you today; I am so unbelievably fed up and angry. I've mentioned here many times in the past that I was never a sports fan. As a kid and into adult hood I'd never followed any true sports. I say true sports because quite obviously I've followed professional wrestling for decades, and while for the most part I do consider pro-wrestling a sport it is in its true essence probably more accurately labeled an athletic performance art.

Over the last couple years I've had to change my stance of not being a sports fan because somewhere along the line I became a big fan of MMA, more specifically the UFC. I had interest in UFC since its debut way back in the Royce Gracie days but it wasn't until Brock Lesnar debuted that I realized I was actually following the sport as a genuine fan. I started to know most of the fighters; I'd discuss fights with friends, etc. and one day I realized I'd actually become a sports fan for the first time in my life.

I followed The Ultimate Fighter religiously for about 3 or 4 seasons, as well as watched UFC Unleashed and The Best of Pride Fighting Championships when ever possible. I watched all of the free shows on Spike TV, watched prelim fights on facebook, and even ordered 4-6 UFC PPVs annually. Even the PPVs I didn't order I followed the results on line and kept up with who was winning and who was losing. I was a genuine fan.

You've no doubt noticed I've started using the past tense in talking about my fandom, and there is a reason for that. The reason I am using the past tense is due to the fact that as of today I am officially no longer a fan. If given up on UFC and MMA as a whole, and I no longer plan to order PPVs, no longer plan to watch free fights on TV and have even unliked the UFC page on facebook. I have, if I can use an MMA metaphor, "Tapped Out" on MMA and the UFC.

The finally straw on my proverbial camel's back was the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission lifting Nate Marquardt's suspension for steroid use. I will get into the specifics of what happened shortly but this was a pretty big straw landing on an already very weakened back.

It should surprise no one when I tell you that I am anti steroid; I doubt there is a person on the planet more anti steroid or anti drug than I am. I've been fighting the steroid image of pro wrestling for 20 years, while watching many of my friends and co workers drop dead from steroid related heart attacks. I despise steroid use, while understanding that it is an almost engrained aspect of our society. Athletes in all sports use steroid, athletes from the pros, right on down to high school and probably even the grade school level use steroids. Actors use steroids, models use steroids; almost every cartoon, and comic book character, if they were real, would be using steroids to look the way they do; practically every role model we present to our kids today uses steroids. For Christ's sake look at the new Captain America movie coming out; Captain America is the story of a skinny kid who the government put on steroids to become an American Hero.

Okay I'm getting off on a bit of a tangent here, the point is I knew steroids were a part of MMA. Many fighters used steroids, I got that, but at least on some level I believed that the governing bodies and the companies behind MMA were at least making the effort to fight the good fight. I believed that Dana White would prefer his fighter not be using, and I thought for sure that at the very least the Athletic Commissions were trying to do there best, within their limited budgets and reach, to get drugs out of MMA. After this past week, I can no longer cling to that illusion; I can no longer suspend my disbelief, and I can no longer enjoy MMA.

It all came crashing down for me with Chael Sonnen. When Chael Sonnen was building up his fight with Anderson Silva for the UFC Middle Weight Title I became a huge Chael Sonnen fan. I had no idea who this guy was and I had no plans to order that particular UFC PPV, and then I heard Chael Sonnen talk. The promos he cut on Anderson Silva where awesome, here this guy was facing arguable the most dominant Champ in UFC history and he was talking about this fight being "one sided pounding and I'm gonna be swinging the hammer." His promos were so great I had to watch this fight.

I ordered the show fairly last minute so I didn't even have time to get friends together for it. I coughed up the $49 and sat by myself and watched this fight and it was awesome. It was a one sided pounding and by God Chael Sonnen was swinging the hammer. In the final round with Chael easily up 4 rounds to 0, Anderson Silva pulled out a triangle off his back and tapped out Chael Sonnen, too retain his title. It was an amazing fight that I was so glad I order.

Then it all came crashing down. Chael Sonnen failed his drug test, testing positive for steroids. If that wasn't bad enough Chael's hearings in front of the California State Athletic Commission turned into a circus. Chael lied his ass off in his hearings and got his sentence reduced. There were then follow up hearing trying to straighten out all the dishonesty, and the status of his suspension, because UFC wanted to reward this established steroid user, cheater, and liar with a coaching spot on the Ultimate Fighter Series. After that hearing didn't go well Chael was unable to get the coaching spot on TUF, but UFC has rushed him back into action as soon as possible booking him on an event in Texas, a state known for having a very relaxed Athletic Commission, presumably not wanting to risk California not wanting to license Chael, because of his cheating and lying behavior.

This was almost enough to have me tapping out right there, and then along comes Nate Marquardt, who was unable to compete in his scheduled UFC Main Event fight because he failed a pre fight steroid test. To Dana White's credit he fired Nate, but based on his actions with Chael, I assume the firing was because he screwed up before the fight could take place rather than after, because at least if it was after the fight, UFC would still make all their money.

If Nate's story ended here I'd be quite thrilled, he failed a test, got suspended and fired; yeah justice served. Well as I stated earlier the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission has reversed Marquardt's suspension, stating that his testosterone levels have returned to normal and he is once again cleared to fight. WHAT! Are you Freaking kidding me? It appears he is no longer taking steroids today, so he's good to go, let's clear him to fight. What about the 1 year suspension for a failed steroid test? Fighters aren't just supposed to be clean on the day of the fight; they are supposed to be clean all the time. Nate Marquardt tested positive for steroids, he should be suspended! WTF

To make matters worse Nate's problem stems from testosterone replacement therapy, the same bullshit excuse Chael Sonnen used for his steroid use. This whole issue makes me even madder because, in my not completely uneducated opinion, the Testosterone Replacement Therapy deal is a complete load of horse shit. None of these fighters are suffering from low levels of testosterone unless they are self induced by previous steroid use. We are talking about incredible fit, very muscular individuals, some of which appear on the cover of Muscle, and Fitness magazines, they are not suffering from low levels of testosterone, unless they are taking steroids for an extended period of time and then get off to produce the desired effect when they go to their doctors for a prescription.

Even if they were on legitimate replacement therapy their testosterone levels should never be so far out of whack as to produce a positive test. Are we to believe that Nate's testosterone levels were so far below the lower end of the normal range that he was unable to function and thus needed medical assistance? He then got on replacement therapy to try to get himself back up into the normal range and that dose for some reason put him so far above the high end of the normal range as to product a failed steroid test. Give me a freakin break! What is the point of even having a commission if they are going to bend over backwards to allow fighters to circumvent testing and avoid suspension, with bullshit excuses like this?

Perhaps I'm over reacting, but this is how I feel and I'm entitled to my own opinion. Everyone is free to make their own decisions and spend their money where they wish, but let me assure you, I will no longer spend any of mine on MMA or UFC. If you want to support UFC and MMA you have my blessing, I wish the industry as a whole and its fan base, all the best in their future endeavors.

Lance Evers

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