So, it's been a bit of an ugly week for our MMA overlords. GSP is pissed, Dana is pissed and we fans are tripping over each other in our rush to condemn one side or the other. Situation normal! So what is really going on here? Who is at fault, and how can the UFC better get the monkey off their back? I find myself in a very conflicted place on the whole thing, and yet it still seems to me this can all easily go away...
I completely agree with the side arguing that Dana's scorn for GSP's perceived attempts to up the drug testing game looks bad, and is doing them no favors, and that how they've treated GSP publicly is even worse. Nothing is going to fully repair Dana's treatment of the champ in the UFC 167 aftermath, but I still believe that most of GSP's ire and recent criticism could be sent flowing beneath the bridge of memory if Dana and Lorenzo took a better tack on the issue. The thing is, it isn't that hard for them to make a decent case to Georges as to WHY using VADA or other testing isn't a great idea or at least not an easy one, and it was both stupid and infuriating to be so dismissive and mocking of this before the fight, and so disparaging in the wake of his comments. Probably Georges has always been such a team player, it was very easy to dismiss him and assume that was the end of it. But, dismissing someone as crazy, or less than a man, are two of the oldest weakest canards in the argument game, and aiming those sentiments at one of the smartest, most conservative and polite team players in this manliest (and womanliest) of sports, isn't going to convince anyone who needs convincing. Quite the opposite. And it's the kind of thing that just drives me into a rage and makes me begrudge the UFC my money. Sure, Dana is a short-tempered, pugnacious bastard at times, it's part of his charm too, but they've got to be smart enough to see that this beef could do them some damage, at least in the short term. Thing is, Dana had the salve in hand before 167, and instead of taking this all seriously and driving it home, he choose to let this fester.
Dana made a brief point before the Hendricks fight that I wish he'd harped on more, which is that Georges St. Pierre has nothing to worry about, and he's being way too sensitive to very low level accusations of cheating against him. That he's passed all his tests, and he's never had the kind of blown up over-muscled physique that generally makes your average sports fan smell horsemeat, and be extra suspicious. He doesn't have the perception problem he thinks he does. Dude is beloved or respected by nearly everyone, and has the entire nation across the river from me on his side. The occasional whisper about him, particularly in a sport we all presume to be riddled with chemical additives, is a squall in a teapot at best.
The truth is, any sports fan with any sense is somewhat suspicious of everyone, or just flatly doesn't care that much, which is where I'd fall on the issue. VADA isn't going to ensure that PED use is drastically reduced, and more importantly, it isn't going to change public perception regarding the amount of PED use in the sport at this point. It can be argued that more advanced blood testing simply makes avoiding detection marginally more expensive and time consuming, which favors those who are already established in the sport and making good money (relative to non UFC, or low level UFC fighters). It can also be argued that it just doesn't work to a substantially better degree than commission urine testing. MLB touts it's program all the time, and yet it's rash of PED busts last year were almost exclusively of players who passed all their testing with no problem. The average fan isn't digging into the subtleties here. PEDs are going nowhere, and this is all more a battle of perception than anything else.
I think GSP is concerned with his own image and with the state of the sport both, but the truth is that perception is the real issue, because you're simply not going to cut PEDs out of the sport as things are, and it's only going to get more difficult as elective surgeries, more advanced drugs and methods, etc., all come on line. If you want "natural" build a time machine and head back about a hundred years. Or further, just depends on to what degree you think humanity and our medical and chemical technology count as nature. I'm not advocating a free for all either. You establish your tests at whatever level, and you let that sort out the winners and losers, end of story. As my Dad once suggested when I complained about marijuana laws after a friend of mine got busted in a minor fashion, if you weren't responsible enough to avoid getting caught, you weren't responsible enough for the privilege of breaking the rules. And frankly, the allowance of TRT, the LEGAL use of PEDs is the biggest public relations problem on this front for the UFC, and even that isn't having any effect on their bottom line. So why would they move to advancing testing now?
Something like taking testing into their own hands apart from the commission testing, using VADA or someone else, is something better saved for PR purposes if scandals actually started to hurt the sport. Much better used as a reaction than a proactive step. Pointless to fire their best arrow at an adversary that isn't a threat to them yet. Will Georges become that threat? I doubt it. Sure he's "seen" some things he doesn't want to elaborate on. Every high level athlete has, whether they're talking about their own body or someone else's. But does he have real ammo here? Something that would make the UFC complicit in PED use? Documents on other fighters? I highly doubt all that. There's a reason the UFC wants control of the sport, but little part of the responsibility for it's regulation. They "run to regulation" remember? They run the sport, but I doubt that they have any interest in getting involved in helping guys cheat testing, nor in doing the testing. It only puts more responsibility for their "independent contractors" on their back. There's really no need anyway. The question is whether they're willing to take the time and effort to bring Georges back to the fold, and they'd be wise to make that effort in my opinion.
Now sure, Georges may not want to hear the futility side of it, naive as that may be, but there are any number of decent arguments or moves the UFC could have made, and still could, to keep Georges on their side, and avoid a battle in which they are going to come out looking bad to a lot of fans. Why not join with Georges in calling for the commissions to do blood testing and random tests on all fighters? It's not like that's going to happen any time soon it appears. It wouldn't be that hard to praise Georges while damning his statement. "Georges St. Pierre is one of the most honorable guys we've ever worked with. He has zero need to be concerned about his legacy, and he simply doesn't understand all that's involved here. He's got this all wrong if he thinks we don't care about PED use. It's just not something we have control over at this point, and if we did take that control, we've got to insure it's done as perfectly as possible. We're trying to do our own research and figure out what the best methods of testing would be for us. It's not an overnight thing. Look at baseball, football, the Olympics, etc. What he's asking us to do is oversee the athletic commissions, and that's not a casual, simple move. Outside of TRT exemptions, which are a commission decision, I don't hear the kind of worries he's expressing for other fighters, but it's something we're always thinking about, and investing in trying to improve." End of story. Yeah, they've said much of that in the past, so why take it so personally now? They don't have to push hard, just sympathize with his concerns, and then do whatever it takes to have a long sit down with him. An "airing of grievances" as it were. No skin off their nose at all. But it isn't like Georges hasn't made it perfectly clear how he felt for many months now, and all the engagement the UFC gave him on it was ridicule. Who's being the bad partner here? And, as to the UFC's control, and fighters fear of speaking out...well, how many UFC fighters have chimed in on this in the past week? Yep. I hear crickets too, okay a frigid north wind outside is literally what I hear, but either way... We all know that already. It is known.
In short, the UFC needs to "be a man" and take the time for a long visit with Georges themselves, rather than just spewing nonsense about him and disparaging his character and mental state. Potentially, all he wants is to be heard and taken seriously on the PED issue. The man is still worth a lot to them, whether as an ambassador, or through future PPV revenue if he were to return. And if Mr. Squeaky Clean (presuming he's squeaky clean, and he better be) isn't placated, and chose to go to war with the UFC, well, he's got Canada at his back. Dana looks real ugly in a fight, and it would cost them a ton of time and wind compared to just nipping this before it blooms. And honestly, he brought this on himself, whether it goes nowhere like I expect, or whether Georges actually has some sharp knives still to throw. And if he does have them, he damn well better shut up or prepare to use them...