The UFC’s near decade-long relationship with USADA will come to an end in 2024.
It’s been a busy 24 hours for the Las Vegas-based promotion after two high-profile fighters, Charles Oliveira and Paulo Costa, withdrew from their respective bouts at UFC 294 after sustaining injuries ahead of fight night.
Lost in the shuffle of the UFC 294 shake-up was the announcement that the United States Anti-Doping Agency will no longer work alongside the promotion as of January 1, 2024. The news comes on the heels of Conor McGregor’s re-entry into the testing pool after months of back-and-forth.
“We can confirm that Conor McGregor has re-entered the USADA testing pool as of Sunday, October 8, 2023,” said USADA CEO Travis Tygart in a statement. “We have been clear and firm with the UFC that there should be no exception given by the UFC for McGregor to fight until he has returned two negative tests and been in the pool for at least six months. The rules also allow USADA to keep someone in the testing pool longer before competing based on their declarations upon entry in the pool and testing results.
“Unfortunately, we do not currently know whether the UFC will ultimately honor the six-month or longer requirement because, as of January 1, 2024, USADA will no longer be involved with the UFC Anti-Doping Program.”
— USADA (@usantidoping) October 11, 2023
The UFC has not yet commented on the situation or offered any details on how athletes will be tested once their relationship with USADA expires.
With the partnership between USADA and UFC coming to an end, I'm told to expect a new anti-doping program that would likely begin at the start of 2024 to be announced soon.
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) October 12, 2023
Is Conor McGregor Responsible for the UFC’s Break Up with USADA?
It appears that the UFC’s split with USADA is a direct result of the turmoil regarding Conor McGregor’s return. Originally determined to compete at UFC 296 in December, McGregor lashed out at members of USADA for not allowing him to compete before completing six months of pre-fight screening.
“Despite a positive and productive meeting about a contract renewal in May 2023, the UFC did an about-face and informed USADA on Monday, October 9, that it was going in a different direction,” Tygart said. “We are disappointed for UFC athletes, who are independent contractors who rely on our independent, gold-standard global program to protect their rights to a clean, safe, and fair Octagon. The UFC’s move imperils the immense progress made within the sport under USADA’s leadership.
“The relationship between USADA and UFC became untenable given the statements made by UFC leaders and others questioning USADA’s principled stance that McGregor not be allowed to fight without being in the testing pool for at least six months.”
During its eight-year relationship with the UFC, USADA has conducted more than 27,000 tests on athletes in an effort to level the playing field and ensure the safety of each man and woman who steps foot inside the Octagon.
“Fighters’ long-term health and safety — in addition to a fair and level playing field — are more important to USADA than short-term profits at the expense of clean athletes,” Tygart added. “USADA is proud of the work we’ve done over the past eight years to clean up the UFC, and we will continue to provide our unparalleled service to UFC athletes through the remainder of our current contract, which ends December 31, 2023. As always, we will continue to uphold the rights and voices of clean athletes in all sport.”
Per a report from Aaron Bronsteter, any sanctions put in place by USADA before December 31, 2023, will be grandfathered in.
Per USADA CEO Travis Tygart, the UFC Anti-Doping Program under USADA will remain in full effect until December 31, 2023.
Any sample collected that results in sanctions will be grandfathered beyond that date and the expectation is that the athletic commissions will honour any…
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) October 11, 2023