The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has confirmed Conor McGregor’s reentry into the drug-testing pool, paving the way for his potential return to the Octagon. However, this update comes with a twist as USADA revealed that its partnership with the UFC would conclude on January 1, 2024.
A Sudden Split Between UFC and USADA
USADA CEO Travis Tygart explained that despite positive discussions about a contract renewal in May, the UFC made an abrupt decision to part ways with USADA, signaling a shift in its anti-doping program. The UFC initially enlisted USADA’s services in 2015 to oversee its anti-doping efforts.
The catalyst for this unexpected separation appears to be McGregor, the UFC’s biggest star. USADA cited concerns for fighters’ long-term health, safety, and maintaining a fair playing field as their top priorities, outweighing short-term profits at the expense of clean athletes.
McGregor’s Rocky Road Back to Testing
McGregor had previously removed himself from the USADA drug-testing pool after sustaining a leg fracture in his fight against Dustin Poirier in July 2021. Under the UFC’s anti-doping policy, monitored by USADA, a fighter must spend a minimum of six months in the drug-testing pool and pass two drug tests before returning to competition.
USADA publicly stated in November 2022 that they believed the six-month rule should apply to McGregor. Despite the possibility of an exception, USADA remained firm in their stance, stating that Conor must complete the full six-month testing period.
USADA’s Principled Stand Leads to Break
Tygart emphasized that questioning USADA’s principled stance by UFC leaders and others contributed to the rift between the two organizations. In a July interview, UFC president Dana White hinted that McGregor could return before the year’s end, suggesting that the six-month requirement might not be set in stone. Joe Rogan, UFC color commentator, also criticized some of USADA’s regulations, raising doubts about their impact on fighters.
Tygart’s response to Rogan’s comments highlighted USADA’s commitment to safeguarding the integrity of the sport, especially concerning the use of performance-enhancing drugs for healing purposes.
With the impending end of their partnership, USADA is uncertain if the UFC will uphold the six-month requirement for McGregor, potentially paving the way for a faster return. However, this development puts a question mark on the immense progress made within the sport under USADA’s guidance, leaving the future of the UFC’s anti-doping efforts uncertain. UFC and McGregor’s team have yet to comment on the matter.