An ideal UFC debut would be something like what Cathal Pendred had, when he came back and choked out Mike King in front of his Irish countrymen, taking home an additional $50,000 for performance of the night. In that fight, Pendred showcased the whole medley of heart, strength, endurance and chin.
A less ideal UFC debut would be like what New York’s Keith Berish had in his fight with Robert Drysdale. That light heavyweight bout opened the TUF 19 Finale in the vacuous quietude of the Sunday Vegas prelims, on the heels of the raging party that was UFC 175. Not only did Berish lose the fight in front of virtually nobody, but he suffered significant damage to his knee in the process. If that weren’t enough, he learned that his opponent, Drysdale, tested positive for elevated testosterone in the aftermath.
The loss becomes a "no contest," but the whole thing remains forgettable.
"[Drysdale testing positive] just kind of makes it even worse," Berish told MMA Fighting. "The way it ended, though, that’s the thing I hate the most. I didn’t feel like he had more than jiu-jitsu, and I was defending his jiu-jitsu pretty well in my mind. But it just sucks. It’s a good point for me because what people are saying is that it turns from a submission win [for him] into a no contest. It was more the injury thing [that bothers me]."
Drysdale took down the 28-year old Berish early in the fight, and the jiu-jitsu ace had his back with a body lock. Berish fended off a rear-naked choke and then a neck crank, as Berish stood up and tried to shuck Drysdale off. In the process of going back down, Berish buckled over his knee and tapped immediately after.
The official scoring at the time was Drysdale via rear-naked choke. But if you saw the bout, and saw the awkward angle that Berish’s knee collapsed, the fight was over at that point. The end result was a torn MCL and ACL, which will table him for the next four-to-six months.
"I knew it was significant, because I’d torn my meniscus before, which isn’t too big of a deal," he said. "And I could tell it was more than that."
Berish, who trains at America Top Team in Danbury, Connecticut, is doing physical therapy as he prepares for surgery next week. Right after the fight, matchmaker Joe Silva -- seeing that his knee was blown out -- came into Octagon and told him that the UFC would take care of him.
Even in light that Drysdale had popped for elevated testosterone, the soft-spoken Berish is reluctant to make a big deal of it.
"The things you hear from other fighters, even in the media, saying things like well over half the people who compete in mixed martial arts are on something, it just doesn’t really matter," he says. "Some people think it matters but it’s more of a mental thing, I feel like, for the people who need it. They feel like they need it, and it’s more a mental crutch more than a physical thing."
This is Drysdale’s second such failed test, the first occurring ahead of UFC 167 when he tested nearly three times over the 6-to-1 T/E threshold and was therefore denied a license to fight in Nevada. If there was a UFC debut that was less auspicious than Berish’s, it might have been Drysdale’s -- whether it’s the one that happened, and the one that didn’t.
"I am surprised in that sense, because you would think that he would have his stuff together," Berish said of Drysdale’s second offense. "But it is what it is, you know. It’s his problem.
"I would say I am more disappointed with the whole scenario, the way it all played out."