After all the drug testing drama in MMA’s most prominent fight organization promised earlier this year to change things with a third-party drug-testing firm that will conduct out-of-competition testing.
Year-round drug-testing program was revealed at today’s press conference.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), a nonprofit and non-governmental organization that serves as the the national anti-doping organization for the U.S., is expected to manage the UFC’s more stringent approach, according to multiple industry veterans who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
UFC Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein in February announced it would enact World Anti-Doping Administration standards to help curtail drug use in the sport and create “an even playing field.”
“When you start having 500-plus athletes under contract, and you’re doing 42 or 45 events per year around the world, the UFC has now ascended to not just an event promoter here and there, but one of the major sports globally,” Epstein stated “With that great success comes great responsibility, and our responsibility is to ensure the playing field – the octagon in our case – is safe and fair. We felt this is something we had to do.”
The expanded drug testing is just one part of an ambitious initiative the UFC has dubbed its “Athlete Marketing and Development Program.” The promotion will spend “millions of dollars” in hopes of improved training methods and output from the 600-plus fighters on its roster.
“If you look at what it’s going to cost us in expenses out of pocket, it’s in the millions,” Epstein said. “But we don’t think there’s a better investment we can make than spending this money. It’s going to benefit our athletes in so many ways. It’s going to keep them healthier. It’s going to help them perform better.”
Representatives from the UFC visited elite training centers around the world – including major sports franchises, as well as English soccer powerhouse Manchester City Football Club – while developing the new program.
“I’d consider it a first-of-its-kind and a best-of-its-kind program in the combat sports space,” Epstein said. “Nobody else is doing this in mixed martial arts or boxing or anything like that.”
Another program still in development is one that includes the help of a career-services organization, according to UFC Vice President of Public Relations Dave Sholler, who said the company is actively seeking potential partners in that field.
“The athletes will be able to start obtaining some of the skills and job requisites needed to make that transition,” Sholler said. “We know that not everyone will be able to live off the earnings they’ve made in professional sports, so we want to help them with that transition.”
Lastly they will also open a full-time training and rehabilitation center as part of a new corporate headquarters t to open next year in Las Vegas.
“Our athletes are located all around the world, but we do a lot of events here, and our athletes frequently travel here,” Epstein said. “We’re going to make this resource available for training, for rehabilitation after an injury takes place and to simply get educated on the latest and greatest training techniques. Building that facility is going to be a big part of this thing.”
There urge to make sure that fighter health is in complete circle will ultimately result in less injuries and better overall fighter development.
“We really view this as providing additional resources to UFC athletes,” Epstein said. “That’s really the genesis of this program, and the overall goal of this program is to provide this benefit to all UFC athletes.”