Pat Healy and the absurdity of how commissions, UFC handle marijuana test failures

Let's make one thing perfectly clear from the get go: Pat Healy has no one but himself to blame for failing his post-fight drug test for marijuana at UFC 159.

The 29 year old Healy is a twelve year veteran of the sport -- and although he may have spent the early years of his career honing his skills on cards with dubious names such as FCFF: Throwdown on the Fairground that reek of, shall we say, laissez faire regulation -- during that time he's doubtlessly learned a thing or two about how this whole drug testing business works. In fact, up until last month Healy spent the entirety of his regulated MMA career peeing as clean as the jokes in a televangelist's sermon.

Which is why he's no doubt going through his own personal regret-laden hell right now. Of all the fights to get popped with a test failure, why did it have to be this one?

Healy's victory over Jim Miller at UFC 159 was the crowning moment of his career. After years of mixed results - including a one and done UFC stint back in 2006 that ended with Healy getting choked out in the first round - here the guy had finally gotten a signature win that established him as a real player at lightweight. It wasn't a case of Healy merely eking out a decision either; he dominated a perennial top five contender in Miller and eventually submitted him in the third round.

Making an already great night no doubt one of the best of Healy's life, the blue collar fighter earned $152,500 for his efforts between his contracted show purse of $17,500, a $5,000 win bonus, and a whopping $130,000 in bonus money for winning both Submission of the Night and Fight of the Night.

Now, thanks to one dumb mistake, all that has made like the title to a Cheech and Chong movie and disappeared in a cloud of pungent smoke.

If Healy has the stomach to take a look at his bank statement today, it might feel like UFC 159 was just a particularly sweet daydream he was in no hurry to wake up from.

However, something tells me that even if a few weeks after the fight Jim Miller's face isn't still wearing the beating he received at Healy's hands, the scrappy New Jersey native is still going to wake up tomorrow morning feeling like he's coming off a loss. Miller and Healy may both have an unsightly purple box marked NC on their Wikipedia pages now, but everyone who saw UFC 159 knows what really happened that night.

Yet here we are having to pretend like the fight never took place. Might as well erase it from the upcoming UFC 159 DVD and replace it with Healy delivering an insincere PSA on the evils of smoking dope. After all, according to the rules set by both state commissions and the UFC, Healy's ill-advised choice to get high a month before competing somehow cancels out his performance in the fight.

And that's a big part of what makes the standard protocol in situations like this so unsatisfying. You'd have to have red tape flowing through your veins rather than blood to honestly think Healy hitting the bong and watching the Outdoor Channel after training one day had any effect on the beatdown he laid on Miller.

After all, it's not like he was caught with elevated levels of testosterone or some other performance enhancing drug. Healy's only crime was being dumb enough to risk using a banned recreational drug in the weeks before his match at UFC 159.

Maybe it's worth taking a second here to ask ourselves what purpose regulators and the UFC are trying to serve by overturning the result after a victorious fighter gets popped for weed. If the point is to scare fighters away from toking up in their spare time, then it's hopelessly misguided. We aren't exactly talking about the most risk-adverse segment of the population here after all. There are always going to be fighters who look at the case of a Healy or a Nick Diaz and say it couldn't happen to them as long as they stop smoking far enough out and use the proper masking agents.

On the other hand, if what commissions and the UFC are trying to do is punish the stoners in their midst for using a non-performance enhancing drug in their spare time, then they might just be overreacting. It seems reasonable to give fighters a uniform monetary fine for an infraction like this - say $10,000 or so - but it's simply tone deaf to the changing society we live in to treat a marijuana test failure the same as one for steroids. Why erase a fighter's hard fought victory because he was boneheaded enough to use a banned substance that didn't give him a performance advantage?

Again, there's no question Healy messed up; he made a mistake and should be expected to shoulder the full responsibly for it.

What's not quite so open and shut a case however is the whether or not fighters like Healy who test positive for pot deserve to have their wins overturned and the entirety of their bonuses taken away. Smoking marijuana may be against the Unified Rules of MMA, but can we honestly say the punishment fits the crime?

This article originally appeared on on 5/16/13

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