Anderson Silva is, without question, one of the greatest MMA fighters in the history of the sport. He’s built a legacy that’s filled with highlight-reel knockouts, but that doesn’t mean the UFC should be immediately standing up for the Brazilian.
Following the odd and mildly entertaining bout with Nick Diaz at UFC 183, perhaps the biggest drug test failure in the history of the UFC occurred. Silva, long considered one of the greatest of all time and a bastion of how to be a true martial artist, had his name tarnished seemingly overnight. There were a number of theories surrounding why Silva failed his pre- and post-fight tests with few answers.
At first, fans began to wonder if Silva failed his test due to taking banned supplements to return quicker from his devastating leg injury. Those theories gained more steam after it was reported that the Brazilian would admit PED usage to heal faster from his broken leg. Yet, despite the reports, Silva claimed ignorance of why he failed multiple tests and has even vowed to return to fighting for the next five years.
Even though Silva is surely looking at a suspension unless his legal team pulls off a miraculous defense, it’s not an unreasonable claim as it seems the UFC is ready to back its once-great champion. UFC President Dana White spoke about Silva following UFC Fight Night 62.
“Anderson has been a huge part of this company and regardless of how this thing comes out, we’re going to support the guy,” White said.
It’s not the first time the UFC has supported a fighter after failing a drug test. Stephan Bonnar failed multiple tests during his UFC tenure and was still allowed to compete. After a third failed test, the only thing White would say was that Bonnar had “disappointed him.” A more recent example is Vitor Belfort’s testosterone levels that were through the roof, yet the Brazilian is in line for a title shot this summer.
And I’m sure nobody has forgotten how the UFC was quick to show support and concern for Jon Jones (after his big pay-per-view fight of course) despite his failed test.
The UFC’s stance is in complete contrast to its statements last month. The UFC held a press conference to discuss recent drug test failures and claimed to want harsher punishment for failed tests along with implementing random, out-of-competition testing for all fighters on its roster. Putting on the front of cleaning up the sport and claiming that the promotion will stand behind Silva is simply put, a contradiction. The promotion can’t be gung-ho about looking to weed out the PED users while saying it’ll stand behind Silva based on his past accomplishments.
During his run at the top, Silva became the ultimate champion for the promotion. While other title belts changed hands in popcorn fashion, one of the few constants was Silva’s domination of the 185-pound division. When other fighters fell under claims of PED usage and cheating, Silva remained clean as a whistle. That is, until UFC 183, which represented his first time undergoing random testing. Of course there’s no way to prove Silva was using PEDs all along without him admitting to it, but the fact Silva failed his first round of random testing does raise some questions.
Silva did create one of the greatest legacies in combat sports during his UFC tenure. But that doesn’t mean he should receive any different treatment when it comes to his punishment for failed tests. If the UFC truly wants to clean up the sport, it shouldn’t show support for Silva. The best move would be to let the NSAC hand out its punishment and move on without comment.
By showing support based on previous accomplishments, the promotion is basically saying failed tests for superstars won’t face as much backlash as guys on the low end of the rankings. The UFC is essentially trying to have its cake (random testing, harsher punishments) and eat it too (showing support of guys who’ve failed tests in turn for a profit). It’s been one of the complaints about the promotion for years. On one hand, UFC management has no qualms about slamming past PED users, but if it’s someone that’s made (or stands to make) the promotion a lot of money, they’re more lenient in how they handle the situation.
If the UFC is as serious as it claims to be about cleaning up the PED problem in MMA, it needs to take a firm stance in all situations. Whether a fighter has made the company millions or just pocket change, it should allow the whole process to play out. If the UFC wants to support fighters who’ve made the company a lot money, it’s okay to do so, but only after the punishment has been handed out and served. Showing support for a guy who broke the rules (no matter how much money he’s made the organization) isn’t the best for public image. And after the recent string of drug test failures, the last thing the promotion needs is more negative attention.