Islam Makhachev, the current UFC Lightweight champion, appears unfazed by the recent accusations of Intravenous (IV) therapy use ahead of his fight at UFC 284 on February 11, 2023. Makhachev made a successful title defense against Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, whom he defeated in a hard-fought unanimous decision. However, Makhachev’s victory has been overshadowed by two major controversies that have arisen after the bout.
The first is the widespread belief among some members of the MMA community that Makhachev should not have won the fight at all. Despite Makhachev winning the unanimous decision, a significant number of fans and analysts believe that Volkanovski outperformed the champion and should have been awarded the victory.
The second controversy surrounding Makhachev’s victory is related to accusations of him using Intravenous (IV) therapy to rehydrate after making weight. The teammate of Volkanovski and Makhachev’s former opponent, Dan Hooker, has been vocal about his belief that Makhachev cheated by using IV therapy, which is prohibited under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.
Islam Makhachev’s weight cut for his title fight against Alexander Volkanovski was visibly challenging, and his appearance on the scales was not well received by fans and critics alike. In MMA, fighters must rehydrate after cutting weight without the aid of IV bags filled with fluids.
While fighters using IVs to rehydrate after weight cuts is a well-known practice, the UFC’s partnership with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has made it challenging for them to get away with it. The USADA’s rigorous drug testing methods have become more effective in catching cheaters, and they have reportedly developed blood tests that can detect the use of IV tubing for hydration. The effectiveness and detection window of these tests remain unknown, as both sides try to stay ahead in the arms race of drug testing by keeping their methods confidential.
Hooker’s claim has sparked outrage among some fans, who have taken to social media to express their frustration and demand an investigation into Makhachev’s alleged wrongdoing. In response, Makhachev has publicly denied the allegations, stating that he has never used performance-enhancing drugs and that USADA and UFC have no issues with him.
“I don’t even want to comment on that,” Makhachev told Russian media. “The UFC works with the expert organization USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency). Before and after the fight, I was tested four times in total. Somebody posted a picture with a bruise on my vein. Australia has its own commission that takes blood samples during fight week. They took my blood on Wednesday and I had the UFC photo shoot on Thursday.
“Some fighters are trying to push this narrative, but the UFC and USADA have no issues with me,” he concluded.
On February 15, 2023, ESPN reporter Brett Okamoto shed new light on the use of intravenous (IV) therapy in UFC. It has been widely believed since the arrival of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that all forms of IV usage are prohibited in the sport. However, according to Okamoto’s report, this is not entirely accurate. Okamoto provided further clarification on the matter.
There seems to be a misunderstanding across the sport on the prohibited or non-prohibited use of IVs … I myself was not completely aware of this until this latest high profile example/accusation from UFC 284.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) February 15, 2023