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Covering the Anderson Silva news for The Guardian

I hadn’t planned on writing much in the wake of the news that Anderson Silva tested positive for two types of anabolic steroids. Perhaps I was sated by a short rant on Twitter. I also figured I could roll with my thoughts on Gross Point Blank, which I did on Wednesday. Then an old editor of mine from SI.com came calling. Bryan Graham, who now works for the much respected Guardian, asked if I was open to reporting on Silva and the out-of-competition collection administered by the Nevada Athletic Commission on Jan. 9, the result of which wasn’t reported until after the fight on Feb. 3. My answer, of course, was yes. The piece was published early Thursday morning, please give it a read. One thing: reporters don’t write headlines, and while I think the headline on this piece rings true, I’m not sure it captures the larger essence of the state of things. This piece — and the episode itself — is bigger than the UFC. We’re talking state regulators in Nevada — the so-called “gold standard” of commissions in the United States, whom UFC president Dana White has constantly said should be the group in charge of policing PEDs — propagating two flagrant drug-related screw ups in the same month. We’re also talking MMA’s pervasive drug culture, which, to be fair, I’ve pinned predominately on the inaction and mixed messaging of Zuffa officials. That said, there’s no question monitoring fighters, both on the regulator and UFC side, ramped up dramatically since the early 2000s, when Zuffa replaced SEG as the owner of the UFC. Fighters have been caught. So why does it feel...

Bellator Champ: I’m on Par with Jose Aldo

Quick: Name the top featherweight mixed martial artist fighting this weekend. If your first thought was UFC’s Conor McGregor, well, Bellator champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire thinks you haven’t got a clue. At a time when McGregor’s magnetism has resonated with many people, Freire will go to work in Temecula, Calif., on Friday night much less known. This despite the fact that the 27-year-old Brazilian has established himself as one of the most exciting and dangerous 145-pound fighters in MMA. “I’ve been in this for 11 years as a professional fighter,” Freire said. “I have two very controversial losses, so to me I never lost. I’m undefeated. I’ve prepared my whole life to be the best at this, so for me it’s ridiculous that people don’t think as high of me as I think they should.” For what it’s worth, I have “Pitbull” ranked fifth, two spots ahead of McGregor. If they were matched against one another this weekend, there would be plenty of interest on both sides because Freire appears to be much more of a threat than McGregor’s opponent in Boston on Sunday, Dennis Siver, a plodding 36-year-old Russian-German PED user. Certainly, were it Freire instead of Siver standing in the opposite corner, even McGregor’s loudest supporters would have a tough time buying the Irishman’s predictions of a two-minute destruction. So it’s fair to wonder: Who’s the better featherweight fighter right now: @PatricioPitbull or @TheNotoriousMMA? — Josh Gross (@yay_yee) January 15, 2015 There was no need to connect McGregor and Freire before. Yet the fact that the featherweights are headlining televised cards for competing promotions on a crowded...

Jon Jones Toughest Fight is with Himself

In a matter of days, Jon Jones showed yet again he is both mixed martial arts greatest source of promise and concern. We know the 27-year-old UFC light heavyweight champion, fresh off the most visible title defense of his career, a decision win on Jan. 3 against Daniel Cormier, tested positive for the main metabolite associated with cocaine a month before the fight. News of the result, first reported by Yahoo! Sports, accompanied the revelation that Jones had entered a drug treatment center. UFC president Dana White indicated how proud he was of Jones for finding help, and that he expected the native New Yorker to “emerge from this program like the champion he truly is.” “Jon is a strong, courageous fighter inside the octagon, and we expect him to fight this issue with the same poise and diligence,” the UFC said in a statement. “We commend him on his decision and look forward to him emerging from this program a better man as a result.” Reebok announced it would stand by the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in MMA after signing him to a deal less than a month ago. And the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which administered the test that pushed Jones’s long-rumored drug use out into the open, indicated there was nothing it could do to discipline him. Jones was obviously allowed to fight despite the regulatory body’s knowledge of his use. And, Jones’s promoter, the UFC, was well aware of his issues leading up to the match with Cormier—a contest that made big money for all involved—and probably much longer than that. If any of this seems unreasonable, take a moment...

Twitterbag: Thoughts on Jones-DC and the Year Ahead

The new year is in full swing and already there’s much to discuss. After an impressive title-retaining win by Jon Jones Saturday night in Las Vegas, focus remains on the UFC light heavyweight champion. Rightfully so. And, no surprise, when I asked for questions from Twitter the lot of them landed on “Bones,” his future, and how the 205 class shakes out moving forward. We’ll also get to madman Donald Cerrone and his desire to fight 1,500 times a year. As it is, bout No. 2 is slated for Jan. 18, in Boston against Benson Henderson. Seriously. Other topics on the Twitterbag docket include Mr. Conor McGregor, the ubiquitous CM Punk, Tim Sylvia’s retirement, and UFC’s inflating pay-per-view costs. I did notice with some disappointment that not a single question centered on the UFC scrapping plans to institute year-round, random, out-of-competition drug testing. This may have slipped through the cracks considering news came in a quiet moment with Dana White and media while the Jones-Cormier maelstrom hit full tilt. Or maybe people just don’t care. All I know is I do. And for a time it seemed as if the UFC did as well. Lorenzo Fertitta and Marc Ratner were on record. The UFC wanted this. They were pursuing this. This was going to happen. Then, what, according to Dana White the fiasco with Cung Le happened and all of a sudden this kind of testing isn’t worth doing? White says UFC shouldn’t be in the business of drug testing—on this we agree. That’s why Zuffa had been working hard on finding a third-party to handle the testing. Remember,...

Jones Tops Cormier, Expects Impressive 2015

And exhale. Following five intense rounds Saturday night in Las Vegas, following several months of the most captivating buildup the Ultimate Fighting Championship has ever produced, Jon Jones, the best mixed martial artist in the game several years running, handled Daniel Cormier, perceived by many as the biggest threat of the maturing champion’s career, in convincing and engrossing fashion. Jones-Cormier represents the pinnacle of what mixed martial arts can offer, and on a night in which the UFC sold a pay-per-view that felt like a major boxing event, with all the attention and energy centered squarely on the main event, the light heavyweights delivered on the first UFC event of 2015—a moment the company needed as it attempts to rebound from slumping business during the last 12 months. No one has been more impressive inside the Octagon, of course, than Jones. This has long been the expectation as the landscape shifted from no-rules warriors, to cross-trained fighters, to top-shelf athletes whose mission it is to be the best. With Jones at the head of the table, this is where we now sit as the UFC light heavyweight champion sets out to prove his place among the greatest mixed martial artists. Fedor Emelianeko to Georges St-Pierre to Anderson Silva to Jones, whom Cormier was so eager to defeat, seems to be a perfectly reasonable lineage. In his locker room prior to the fight, Jones (21-1) was unable to sink fully into preparations. He was cold and couldn’t get a rhythm. A coach offered coffee, though the champ declined because he didn’t want to mess with his fine-tuned system. Instead, the 27-year-old fighter from Endicott, New...

Embracing Hyperbole: Jones-Cormier

For this weekend, at least, embrace hyperbole. Saturday night in Las Vegas, sometime after 9 p.m. Pacific, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, 27, the best fighter in the world, will stand across the cage from a unique threat, lovable 35-year-old powerhouse Daniel Cormier, and few of us watching will feel like we have a strong sense of what’s about to happen. Among the many things I appreciate about Jones vs. Cormier, smart mixed martial arts people disagreeing by wide margins about the outcome might top the list. As it is, I have Jones. Not easy, but convincing. I have Jones winning this way because I see him as the truth, the supreme manifestation of talent, work, skill and determination. This doesn’t mean you can’t view Daniel Cormier in similar tones. Not at all. Through my corrective lenses, though, Cormier doesn’t burn quite as bright, and even the slightest bit of separation between the two will emerge during their 25-minute clash. I favor Jones (20-1) because of what I know about the man as a fighter. Because of what he’s shown us throughout a fantastically emergent career in the Octagon. Others would say the same of Cormier, and, at 15-0, the ex-heavyweight known for speed, power and an ability to toss giants like toddlers appears more than worthy. I don’t think Cormier’s resume comes close to Jones’s, then again he hasn’t had the chance to make his point against dominance. My grand hope is Cormier comes to represent Jones’s first true foil. (There’s Alexander Gustafsson, of course, but the Swede offers none of the school yard extracurriculars Cormier has...

MMA’s Best of 2014

For years I made it a point of my coverage to acknowlege fighters who competed outside the UFC. Despite the immense roster of talent Zuffa built, MMA wasn’t just UFC, and as far as I was concerned it was necessary to keep that perspective. Take nothing away from the mixed martial artists working inside the Octagon, obviously, but the reality was if a fighter didn’t compete for UFC the majority of media and fans tended not to care, despite the fact that some, in my estimation at least, truly deserved the attention. As we enter 2015, though, consolidation has made it so the UFC essentially delivers the only tier of fighting that truly matters. The sentiment in that last sentence doesn’t necessarily feel fair because quality fighters do exist outside the UFC, but look at most rankings — mine included — and you should get the point. As we take time to reflect on a topsy-turvy year that likely won’t be remembered as the most fruitful for MMA, in-cage action once again reaffirmed UFC is where the best do their thing. Based on history alone this shouldn’t surprise anyone. UFC’s asset purchase of the World Fighting Alliance brought Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson and others into the fold. Pride’s absorption delivered a mother lode of top-shelf fighters. When UFC swallowed its Japanese competitor, I suggested the Octagon would house the biggest fights in MMA from that point forward. Strikeforce and Showtime made a run at that title for a couple years, which is why UFC’s acquisition of Scott Coker’s company sealed the deal. Perhaps Viacom can push the envelope with Bellator...

Fighters file class-action lawsuit against UFC

A historic legal action has been leveled against the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Attorneys representing Cung Le, Jon Fitch and Nathan Quarry — and potentially scores of UFC-affiliated mixed martial artists — filed a 63-page multi-million-dollar class-action suit in federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 16, alleging UFC business practices resulted in antitrust violations, and that UFC, owned and operated by Zuffa LLC, purposely structured deals in order to restrain the market. The civil action — Cung Le, et al. v. Zuffa, LLC, d/b/a Ultimate Fighting Championship — alleges Zuffa engineered an “over-arching, anti-competitive scheme to enhance its monopoly power” in the market for promotion of live elite professional MMA bouts, and maintained monopsony power for elite professional MMA fighter services in the U.S. Monopsony refers to when there are many “sellers” and few “buyers” in the marketplace. The suit seeks treble damages, which allows a court to triple the amount a defendant must pay to a plaintiff, as well as injunctive relief under the Sherman Antitrust Act. Two additional suits seeking class-action status have been submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California since the original action was filed. Joining Le, Quarry and Fitch are Javier Vazquez, Dennis Hallman, Brandon Vera and Pablo Garza. On Dec. 30, the UFC announced it retained the services of Boies, Schiller& Flexner LLP. “We have built a popular business from modest beginnings by meeting the needs of fans and fighters. Millions of people have watched our bouts, we have instituted leading health and safety measures for our athletes, and fighters are free to negotiate contract terms,” the promotion said in...

Weekend Roundup

Here are five quick things that jumped out to me about Hendricks-Lawler 2. Despite his well worn greatness, Georges St-Pierre is an underestimated champion. Start here: Consider how difficult it is to retain to the UFC welterweight title. St-Pierre, Miletich and Hughes are the only UFC welterweight champs to defend the title. GSP held onto the 170-lb. title nine consecutive times. NINE. Johny Hendricks. Nick Diaz. Carlos Condit. Jake Shields. Josh Koscheck. Dan Hardy. Thiago Alves. B.J. Penn. Jon Fitch. All stepped up. All fell short. Meanwhile, Hendricks’ first attempt caved in against Lawler. Sooner than later chances are Lawler will run into someone that poaches the belt away. But if the new champ manages to approach the status of his mentors Pat Miletich (four straight defenses) and Matt Hughes (five straight, seven total), that would be pretty damn impressive. So, take a bow GSP, you deserve the praise. Round 1 … By the slimmest of margins, I scored the first 10-9 for Hendricks. That said, I won’t argue if you had R1 (and the fight) for Lawler. None of the judges scoring at ringside had the first for Hendricks. Watching for the first time, my impression was Hendricks dealt well with Lawler’s early aggression. He pressed plenty, especially in the wrestling department, and in the later stretches landed the round’s most meaningful strikes. Lawler spent the first minute seeking to strike, clinched or from the outside, and he landed several solid knees to the body. Minute 2 was more of a stalemate, with Hendricks pressing Lawler into the fence as the veteran challenger sought to neutralize the wrestler’s grinding takedown work. Infighting continued into the third minute, and midway through the round...

Why Cung Le Wants Out of his UFC Deal

A summer thumping by Michael Bisping may go down as the last scene of Cung Le’s fight career. The popular middleweight isn’t sure if he’ll compete again, though his stance against doing so for the UFC is clear. During an interview Wednesday on the Gross Point Blank podcast, Le revealed he wanted a release from his UFC contract. Six weeks after the Las Vegas-based UFC rescinded a 12-month suspension of Le for allegedly using performance enhancing drugs, the 42-year-old fighter still had “a bad taste in my mouth with the UFC. I worked extremely hard and I sacrificed a lot for them, and there’s also a lot of perks to being part of the UFC, but it’s not the perks that are worth what they did.” Le’s manager Gary Ibarra made two attempts to negotiate away the veteran’s deal, which he signed in 2011 and calls for a couple more bouts. Both requests were denied by UFC executives over the last month, he said. In early November, not long after the UFC backtracked because elevated levels of human growth hormone in Le’s system “by itself does not prove that he took performance-enhancing drugs before the August 23rd bout,” both sides addressed issues over the phone. Ibarra’s second try included a promise that Le would not jump ship to Bellator MMA: “I came back and said if the real bone of contention is the possibility of him going to Bellator, I don’t have a problem signing an agreement that Cung won’t fight for Bellator, or anyone else, for the length of Cung’s current UFC contract. Cung just doesn’t want to be associated with them.”...