Rarely does a fighter riding an unbeaten streak get cut from the UFC. But in the case of Matt Riddle, who recently failed his second drug test in a span of eight months, testing positive for marijuana following a victory over Che Mills, UFC officials made an exception.
"When they've already fired Jon Fitch, I think they were just looking for a reason to get rid of me," Riddle said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
"I wasn't expecting to fail that drug test. You know, I quit [smoking] 21 days out. But after me calling out Joe Silva because he didn't give me Dan Hardy, and then me not going out there and brawling, and failing the drug test, they were going to fire me. So whatever, I'm good. I got fight offers. I'm good to go."
Thus far Riddle seems to taking his unexpected release in stride. The 27-year-old, who has fought strictly under the UFC banner throughout his professional career, is already fielding offers from several promotions, and is currently in talks with AXS TV.
While Riddle expects not to sign anything long-term -- "I already did that with the UFC for the last five years. They kind of owned me," he said -- the welterweight considers his newfound sense of freedom a "fresh breath of air."
"It kind of gives me the chance to have fun on the regional circuit," Riddle explained.
"It might sound, maybe not the greatest, but I'm excited to probably fight lesser talented fighters than I was in the UFC. Just because the UFC, to get there you usually have to be on like a five-fight knockout spree, and you usually have to be doing big things on the regional circuit to get the call.
"I think it's going to be a good way for me to keep developing as a fighter and showcase my skills."
Still, after amassing what could've been a 9-3 record inside the UFC, punctuated by a four-fight winning streak if not for his failed drug tests, Riddle can't help but question the circumstances of his release. When asked if a high-profile fighter like Vitor Belfort or Nick Diaz would've maintained his job after undergoing similar stumbles, Riddle was blunt.
"I think we all know that answer," he responded. "Yeah. Honestly, I think the UFC, they wanted me to go out against Che, they wanted me to stand in the center of Octagon and just throw down. And I would've done that, but I'm not going to do that in his backyard in London, when I know that even if I take him down three times a round and pass his guard every round, they're still going to give him the scorecard. I couldn't take a chance like that.
"But you've got to look at guys like Dave Herman. Three fight losing streak, gets knocked out like three times in a row, fails two drug tests for weed, and he's still in the UFC. And I don't take anything from Herman, I'm sure he's a great guy. But I don't know. I think that's very hypocritical, and those are politics right there. That's not good business. That's you guys getting together, doing a little pow-wow, and being like, ‘Let's get rid of Riddle. He's fighting more conservative. He's going out there for wins. He's fighting more educated. And I'd rather hire a couple guys from Australia or the U.K. that just brawl, and pay them half as much.'"
Regardless of where he signs, Riddle hopes to fight again sometime within the next two months.
The events of the past few weeks have soured the fighter's view of the UFC, to point where he wouldn't be overly disappointed if he was never invited back.
"Honestly, I would be fine with that," Riddle admitted. "I've already done a decent amount of damage in the UFC, you know, with fighting and having fun there, making a good amount of money. I'm 27, just hitting my stride."
Most surprisingly, though, Riddle said he may even reject the UFC's offer if it comes in the future.
"What I see happening is, a year or two from now the UFC calls me back after I've won probably like five or six fights, hopefully. And I'll probably, at the time, say, ‘No.' Because I really don't like the direction they're taking the company. They're firing high-level talent so they can have lower level talent just scrap, and they'd rather have a brawl than a good technical fight. I think that's going to be their downfall, because the fans are getting more educated. They're getting smarter, and they don't want to just see a slugfest and two retarded guys with brain damage bleeding everywhere.
"Don't get me wrong," continued Riddle. "That's good to have when two guys are evenly matched. When two guys are evenly matched, when you've got two Division I wrestlers that can't take each other down and they are left in a slugfest, that's what happens. But then to have me fight Che Mills, and then kind of expect me to stand in the pocket with a world class kickboxer who has knocked out other world class kickboxers, it's just stupid. You're asking me to get hurt. And basically, I didn't. I fought smart, and I lost my job."
Aside from his obvious questions, Riddle also remains suspicious regarding the validity of his most recent positive drug test. In addition to what Riddle perceived to be irregular handling procedures, the test discovered increased levels of Creatine in his system, which Riddle claims to have abstained from since he was 16 years old.
"A lot of lawyers think I have a lawsuit for wrongful termination," Riddle said. "And, you know, I'm not really trying to go that route, because I like to fight and I'm not really trying to bellyache about it. But at the same time, if didn't fail a drug test, and something was added to my urine, like Creatine and THC, or something like that, then I would like to know. Because I just think it was just really convenient. Then even after my fight, Dana White was making comments, ‘Oh, maybe if people started fighting more exciting, unlike Riddle lately.' He did a couple interviews and mentioned how I haven't been fighting exciting, and then just so happens, a couple days later I fail a drug test and I get fired. There's just a couple variables, it just seems really fishy."
Riddle plans to consult a physician to uncover the root of his allegedly increased Creatine levels.
Though he is a licensed medicinal marijuana user in the state of Nevada and estimates to smoking nearly an eighth of an ounce a day over the course of two-to-three 30-minute sessions, Riddle remains confident he took enough precaution to avoid his second failed test, and voiced frustration with the government's crusade against marijuana users.
"It's a losing battle they're fighting," Riddle said in closing. "It always has been, and I don't know why they just don't quit, or just get educated. That's the hardest part. It's a bunch of senior citizens that don't really know anything about the drug or anything about the people that use it, or the culture. And they just look at it a certain way, they think it's like a dirty thing to do, and you should just go to a pharmacy and get some pills and you'll be fine. I'm not that guy. I'm a natural kind of guy. You'll never get me to do that."