Valerie Letourneau won't have her most influential teammate in her corner for the biggest fight of her life, and she's clearly not happy about it.
The title challenger will go into her bout with women's strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 193 on Saturday in Melbourne, Australia without Hector Lombard by her side. Lombard was suspended for one year by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC), retroactive to January, for testing positive for a designer steroid. Under the rules of the UFC's new anti-doping policy run by USADA, an athlete is not allowed to have someone currently under sanctions to be in his or her corner during a fight.
Letourneau said last month that she wished to move forward with Lombard as her cornerman, but USADA spokesperson Annie Skinner told MMAjunkie in an e-mail this week that the third-party organization discussed the situation with Letourneau and Lombard more recently. Lombard will be watching the fight from the stands.
If Lombard were to have cornered Letourneau, she would have faced discipline herself.
"The only thing that hurts us is that Hector is such a big part of my improvement in my career in the past two or three years, that I just feel that it's disgusting for him not being able to be there," Letourneau said Wednesday at UFC 193 open workouts. "But he's gonna be in the crowd and he knows how much I care and how grateful for how much he's been helping me. But the job is done and I will go there with no corner and still do my job."
This issue is not a new one in combat sports. UFC lightweight contender Gilbert Melendez was suspended by the UFC following a failed drug test at UFC 188 in June. Due to that ineligibility, Melendez was unable to corner his wife Keri Taylor-Melendez at Bellator MMA: Dynamite 1 in September. The California State Athletic Commission honored the UFC's suspension of Melendez. There are many cases of this happening over the years.
The language of USADA's policy with the UFC is much broader, though. The anti-doping handbook given to fighters states that an association with "any support person" serving a period of ineligibility could result in a violation. Lombard was obviously part of Letourneau's training camp at American Top Team despite his suspension.
With a massive fight coming up in a matter of days, this is obviously not a topic the French Canadian competitor is comfortable addressing, she said Wednesday (Thursday afternoon in Melbourne).
"I don't want to talk about it too much, because it's nothing positive for me," Letourneau said. "But all I have to say is the job is done. My training was at the gym."