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.