FRESNO, Calif. -- Scott Coker isn't sure if mixed martial arts has a drug problem, but he calls the amount of big-name fighters testing positive "concerning."
The Bellator MMA president said he had a discussion with California State Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster on Friday before Bellator 133 here at SaveMart Center on the campus of Fresno State University. And afterward, he was left unsure if there was truly an epidemic in the sport as many have speculated.
"There's hundreds of athletes that have been licensed and sanctioned in this state," Coker said. "So you can't just put them all together and say this is an issue. I think it should be monitored. When an athlete does pop, it's a lose, lose, lose for everybody. Nobody wins. The athlete doesn't win, for sure. He can't make a living, he can't make any money, he can't provide for his family. The network loses, the promoter, the fans. Everybody. It's not a win and really it needs to be stopped."
Performance-enhancing drugs are without a doubt the hottest topic in MMA right now. UFC legend Anderson Silva tested positive for anabolic steroid metabolites in an out-of-competition, random test Jan. 9 ahead of his Jan. 31 bout with Nick Diaz at UFC 183 in Las Vegas. However, Silva's test results didn't come back until three days after the bout and he was allowed to compete. Siva beat Diaz by unanimous decision.
This week, news broke that Hector Lombard had popped for performance-enhancing drugs after UFC 182 on Jan. 3 and was pulled from his bout with Rory MacDonald at UFC 186 on April 25 in Montreal. And World Series of Fighting star Jon Fitch, a UFC veteran, tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone after his bout at WSOF 16 on Dec. 13.
"I think if you look at the amount of people that are clean compared to on performance-enhancing drugs, I think it's really a much cleaner sport than it is a dirty sport," Coker said. "But I will say this: There have been some pretty high-profile guys that have popped and that's concerning."
What Coker, the former president of Strikeforce, will concede is that the recent spat of positive tests casts a dark shade on MMA when it comes to casual fans. Coker used Jon Jones' positive test for cocaine metabolites as an example. Jones popped nearly a month before his UFC 182 fight against Daniel Cormier, but cocaine is not prohibited by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) out of competition. In competition is considered within a 12-hour window before and after the fight.
"The fans that don't know the sport are like, 'Oh, you can fight on cocaine?'" Coker said. "Seriously. You can try to explain it to them. There's this whole process to explain it to them."
Coker also added that regardless of whether this is a widespread problem, it's enough of one to warrant some kind of reform.
"It's something that needs to be dealt with," he said. "It can't just sit the way it is. The average fan on the outside looking in doesn't know the details. And they're just saying, 'You guys are all on steroids, you're all doing drugs.' It can turn off a lot of people. Something needs to be done."