Is Bellator MMA’s Severe Lack Of Drug Testing Putting Fighters At Risk?

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UFC rightly receives a lot of scrutiny over major issues like fighter health and safety, which comes with the territory of being the top MMA company in the world. There have been some missteps, such as Paddy Holohan hiding a blood condition in order to continue fighting, and only revealing it after his retirement. However, UFC seems committed to keeping fighters as safe as possible while still competing in a combat sport. Pre-fight medical checks found heart conditions in Dan Hardy and Stefan Struve that kept them from fighting, at least temporarily in Struve’s case. Last year, UFC announced a partnership with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that would make drug testing practices far more stringent and punishments more severe.

Unfortunately, as the No. 2 MMA organization — at least in the U.S., if not the world — Bellator MMA appears to be less concerned about health and safety. Even more troubling, the scrutiny they receive is far less severe than UFC’s. When Brock Lesnar was scheduled to fight at UFC 200 in July, much was made of the fact that he would be exempt from USADA’s four month testing protocol for retired fighters. Some took this to mean he had carte blanche to take each and every one of the steroids in the known universe, as if he wouldn’t be tested at all. In reality, Lesnar was tested four days after the announcement, and has already undergone at least five drug tests.

On the other end of the spectrum, former Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren has stated that he was only tested once during his eight fight stint in Bellator, despite being in four main events. While Bellator isn’t obligated to partner with USADA or any other anti-doping group, it would appear that Bellator has strategically kept fighters from even needing to be tested.

While it could be simple happenstance and a desire to build fan bases in underserved markets, Bellator chooses questionable locations for a bulk of their events. UFC holds nearly 40 percent of their U.S. bouts in Las Vegas, and the newer and smaller World Series of Fighting has had one third of their events in Vegas as well. Bellator has only held two shows in the entire state of Nevada, both in 2014, about seven months before the Nevada Athletic Commission implemented serious drug testing and punishment reforms. In fact, Bellator has had roughly 35 percent of their 130-plus U.S .events on some form of Native American facility, typically in the form of a tribal-run casino.

Here is the testing done at those facilities, as verified by various colleagues:

Mohegan Tribe, Dept of Athletic Regulation, Verified by Mike Mazzulli

1. Blood Work: HIV, Hepatitis B Surface Antigen, Hepatitis C Antibody. Prefers to have results with the verbiage, “Negative,” but will accept, “Non-Reactive.” Blood work is good for 6 months of the fight.