Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
The biggest problems in our lives are usually the ones we make for ourselves. Alistair Overeem has recently had a rough stretch of time. Within the span of a few months, he nearly missed out on a No. 1 contender match with Brock Lesnar after a drug testing debacle, engaged in a messy, ongoing lawsuit with his longtime team Golden Glory, faced a possible jail term for a battery charge, and flunked a random drug screening.
Luck may or may not be a real thing, but such a confluence of events can't simply be chalked up to coincidence. Despite it all, Overeem is still trudging forward with the belief he will be licensed to fight current champion Junior dos Santos. As far as most MMA observers go, that's the only thing that matters. It's a big deal in the fight world, but only because of the state of suspension it's placed us in. Will he or won't he get to fight?
This is crazy. How bizarre is this situation, where everything revolves around Overeem?
Let's move out of the Overeem bubble for a second to see how this affects other people. First and foremost, there is Dos Santos, the classy and clean champion who has no idea who he will be fighting on May 26. Then, there are fans interested in buying tickets who aren't quite sure what they'll see when they arrive in Las Vegas. Then, there are the few fighters who may be in line to possibly step in and face Dos Santos. And finally, there is the UFC, who cannot promote one of their biggest events of the year because they are in a holding pattern.
Admittedly, at this point, it is a problem of the UFC's choosing. They could pull Overeem out of the fight if they wanted to, after his first test showed a testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 14:1. They've done it with both lesser and similar transgressions. Late last year, they removed Nick Diaz from a title match for missing two press conferences. In February 2011, they removed Thiago Silva from a proposed bout with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson after Silva's sample from a January drug test was detected to contain non-human urine. At the time, there were still three months to go until the May fight date, but they didn't bother to wait around for his B-sample result or hearing. So there is precedent. It's just that the UFC has decided to play the waiting game and hope for the most beneficial result.
If that sounds like Overeem's getting the superstar treatment, it's because he is. Even if it's to the detriment of anyone else. At least Dos Santos has stood up for himself. On Wednesday, he told Brazilian news site Globo that he wants to know "as soon as possible" who his opponent is. That's only fair. After all, he is the champion. He has done nothing wrong, yet he is in as big a state of flux as anyone else. That hardly seems just.
In the balance of what's fair for Overeem, it is Dos Santos who is getting overlooked the most. If his opponent changes from Overeem to Frank Mir, it would be a significant change, and one he won't have much time to prepare for. But it will also affect whoever replaces him. If Mir get the slot, who does Velasquez fight? And the aftershocks go on and on.
This case is about Overeem, but his fate affects so many others. While he waits, they wait, too. The only difference is, nobody notices them.
Meanwhile, here's what else is going on with Overeem's case.
Frank Mir ready for anything
While the UFC is still operating under the hope that Overeem will be cleared to fight, they have at least unofficially touched base with Frank Mir's team. Mir's manager Malki Kawa told MMA Fighting that he agrees with the UFC's decision to wait, saying it's the same consideration he'd hope to receive for one of his own fighters. That said, they're preparing for the possibility that Overeem is ruled out.
"The only thing we've been told briefly is to be ready for anything because anything can happen," Kawa said. "So we've instructed Frank to continue training for Cain [Velasquez] with the idea that he's probably going to fight Junior dos Santos. They haven't told us he's in line for it. They basically told us they have to wait for the Overeem decision. If he gets denied for his licensure, I'm expecting Frank to get jumped up and get that title shot. But all I've been told is to be prepared for anything."
Overeem's lawyered up
The heavyweight has retained a legal heavyweight, Nevada lawyer David Chesnoff to represent him in his upcoming NSAC hearing.
Chesnoff has a reputation for getting high-profile cases in Las Vegas. He's represented Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, Paris Hilton, Suge Knight, Bruno Mars and Vince Neil, among others. He was also Overeem's lawyer during a March battery sentencing hearing, in which the Dutch star was sentenced to 50 hours of community service and anger management counseling. Overeem is due back in court for that same case on September 26.
Growing speculation of TRT defense
Overeem still hasn't made a peep since his test results were made public, but there's a growing belief by some that he will present a case that centers around therapeutic usage of testosterone. The Nevada state athletic commission's TUE procedures require a fighter to apply for an exemption within 20 days of a fight. If Overeem presents a TRT defense, he could say he was not required to inform them of his use at the time of his March 27 test. If employed, it will be a risky strategy, but he may have some wiggle room. In standard pre-fight drug tests, athletes fill out questionnaires that ask them to list any medications they are taking. In a form such as that, he would have been required to list TRT or any other drug he was being prescribed. But NSAC executive director Keith Kizer confirmed to MMA Fighting that during the March test, there were no questionnaires given to the fighters.
NSAC meeting on April 17
One week prior to the Overeem hearing, NSAC's medical advisory panel meets. Among the items on the agenda? Refocusing on the commission's TUE policy. No word on if this relates directly to Overeem, but these high-profile cases certainly help influence policy going forward.
Meanwhile, Overeem waits. The others wait, too, silently and ignored, for a decision that will have ripple effects on an entire division and an entire sport.
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