Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Nick Diaz, another black eye?

By Sean McClure

You want drama? You don't need Dr. Phil because you needn't look any further than the MMA community. A surprising number of athletic commission sponsored failed drug tests have been reported this year. Starring in these dramatic presentations were Kevin Randleman, Kit Cope, and Thiago Alves to name just a few. These aren't guys that you would necessarily dislike to any extreme like might Tank Abbot or Ricardo Arona. No, these are fighters that arguably have a certain amount of love and respect from fans that go with their names and have had their reputation tarnished over the past six months.

Testing positive for steroids is one thing, but illegal drugs is another. Steroids pop up in other sports quite often and the backlash is severe for the athlete that uses them, in the press and from the associations they are affiliated with. Lance Armstrong comes to mind. After he was accused of using steroids the greatest American cyclist of all time had his name drug throught the mud until it the allegations were proven wrong. It was too late, the damage had been done and there will always be a question surrounding his Tour De France domination. MMA fighters are gaining respect slowly, but surely and I can assure you that the boxing mafia would love to have their cronies report as often as possible that they were popping for drugs.

The only athlete I could see that the US press wouldn't hammer if they popped for steroids would be Tiger Woods because hey, he's Tiger Woods.

The UFC has the American consumer on a string right now and have a great opportunity to show the United States government how incredibly talented the fighters are and how safe the sport of MMA really is. The world of MMA is one that is populated with many mean looking, tattooed guys that are not all as eloquently spoken as Randy Couture, and that is strike number one for a lot of potential fans. Generally, this is quickly forgotten because of the tremendous amounts of respect shown between these fighters before and especially after an MMA fight, breaking the stereotypes that the detractors of the sport cling to so dearly. The Ultimate Fighter reality show did wonders for the understanding and humanization of the sport and built a large amount of interest and respect for MMA as a whole. All it takes is a few nicks in the armor and it can all go downhill.

With the UFC no longer holding events just in Las Vegas and taking their product in to the suburbs of America, I see this as a crucial moment in MMA.
I basically see the public accepting the MMA sport for the most part, but I can't see those athletic commissions that are currently on the bubble for bringing MMA in to their communities wanting to bother with it if there are drugs or scandals coming along with it. Fighters testing positive for steroids is one thing, but illegal drugs are another. People who use illegal drugs are considered criminals and there's yet another answer to the question, "Why isn't mixed martials allowed here in(your state here)".

Back on task here, Nick Diaz just accomplished the greatest feat of his young career when he defeated the former number one lightweight fighter in the world and PRIDE champion, Takanori Gomi. Now, that win is publicly tarnished, if only slightly among hardcore fans, by allegedly testing positive for a non-performance enhancing drug, and of all things marijuana.

That makes it even worse for MMA in my opinion because steroids would be expected in a sport that involves such high levels of stress on an athlete's body. Maybe I am naive, I don't know. I will say this, I didn't expect world class fighters to be ruining their bodies with smoking, but as I am finding out, a lot of these fighters came from environments where this might have been the standard, and it's hard for them to leave it behind.

Do I think it's a widespread problem across the board? No, not really.

I hope that this is not a recurring problem because MMA is on the rise and coming to a town near you if the UFC and other organizations have their way.
Let's just hope that bad press involving drugs doesn't come with them


No comments: