26.09.2018 - The UFC, even in its relatively short existence, has already seen a myriad of doping and drug controversies. When the pressures – and the financial incentives associated with it – are so astronomical, some fighters will go above and outside of the rules to gain an advantage.Most prominent amongst them are two of the sports most divisive figures: Jon ‘Bones’ Jones & Brock Lesnar.
Jon Jones, once described as “perhaps the greatest martial artist to set foot into an Octagon”, hasn’t fought in the championship since reclaiming his light-heavyweight title against Daniel Cormier in July 2017. This victorious return was later annulled, his title stripped from him and Jones was charged with testing positive for the anabolic steroid - turinabol.
In doing so, Jones made UFC history by becoming the first fighter to be stripped of three separate titles; indicating the depths of his problems. The first time, already marred by a fine for a positive cocaine test, saw him stripped of the championship following a connection to a hit-and-run incident, to which he later pleaded guilty.
After serving a six-month suspension from the roster, Jones returned and reclaimed his title with a unanimous victory over Ovince Saint Preux in 2015. However, this was again stripped of him following a positive test for a variety of hormone modulators and he was subsequently suspended for another year.
Which leads us up to the current day. Already stripped of his third title, Jones is now seemingly existing in a USADA-enforced limbo. He is facing a suspension of up to four years – effectively ending his UFC career – but his camp remain engaged with negotiations with the UFC to reduce that.
Jones himself posted an Instagram update last week of him and his agent at UFC headquarters, presumably arguing to alleviate his punishment.
Indeed, the fact it has taken almost 13 months to receive any punishment is perplexing. Many are beginning to speculate if Jones will face any punishment whatsoever.
‘Bones’ continues to train and posts updates on his progress. Some are even speculating that, with pressure on the UFC mounting to build an enticing line-up for UFC 230 later this year, Jones is being prepared for a spectacular return.
His fans remain vehemently supportive of his abilities and there is no doubt he can still draw in the crowds. Whether a third positive test could be washed away in the pursuit of a return, however, may prove to be a controversial debate amongst the UFC community and his fellow fighters.
Another man who is living in a regulatory limbo – albeit a more financially lucrative one – is former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
The American has always enjoyed somewhat of an on-again-off-again relationship with UFC and, after being twice found positive for oestrogen blockers in December 2017 and suspended for a year, Lesnar announced his second retirement from the sport.
His retirement lasted just over seven months when, at UFC 226, Lesnar was called out on-stage by newly crowned champion Daniel Cormier. Lesnar stormed the Octagon and formally announced his return to the UFC arena.
The USADA announced that Lesnar was working his way back towards their testing pool but, as he had retired from the sport and subsequently had his suspension frozen, he would still need to wait six months before fighting again.
Without a UFC contract in the meantime, Lesnar has his lucrative history in WWE to keep himself busy. He returned to the wrestling ring during their Hell in a Cell pay-per-view event and set himself up for a return to the WWE Universal title once again. There is even the suggestion that, with WWE securing a deal with the Saudi Arabian government to bring the sport to the country, Lesnar is a key component and stands to earn a seven-figure pay check in the process.
It seems, then, that no matter how many times you are slapped on the wrist, the temptation of lucrative audience and pay-per-view figures will always keep the door open for a return. Despite multiple drugs violations between them, Lesnar and Jones remain exciting figures within the UFC world.
As the sport continues to rapidly grow and infiltrate the mainstream, it will be interesting to see just how far forgiveness can stretch before the brand itself begins to suffer. For now, Jones and Lesnar are seemingly both valued as a risk worth taking.