The new era of UFC drug testing is underway, and policy officials were serious when they vowed not to discriminate in choosing their targets. UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, one of the promotions biggest stars, revealed Thursday that she has been randomly tested three times by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) ahead of her UFC 190 showdown against Bethe Correia in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"Once with blood and urine, and twice with urine," Rousey said. "I love that we're with USADA, the U.S. Anti-Doping, because I actually had the same lady who used to come and drug test me since I was like 14 to 21. She would just show up at my house, like ‘hey!' Almost like, ‘oh, welcome! Come hang out and watch me pee!' So you know, a different kind of familiarity, and it makes me feel so much better because I know that the testing is being done properly."
Rousey's familiarity with USADA stretches back to her younger days as an Olympic judoka. USADA is the national anti-doping partner of the Olympics, and Rousey spent much of her childhood training to compete in the Games, eventually becoming the first American women to medal in judo with her 2008 bronze medal campaign in Beijing.
Rousey transitioned to MMA two years later, where she quickly flourished as one of the top female competitors in the sport, claiming the Strikeforce bantamweight title then transitioning into the UFC's first female champion. But after spending a lifetime competing under USADA's strict anti-doping guidelines, Rousey was stunned to find the laxness with which MMA treated its drug testing protocols early in her fighting career.
"I was used to, you go in this beaker, you go in that beaker, then you check all the numbers, then you have a witness here, then you sign this form, then you take this thing out, then you put that over there, you put this tape over this, then you sign this," Rousey said. "That's what I was always used to growing up.
"I know when I first came to MMA and I saw the drastic difference between the U.S. Anti-Doping and the professional MMA doping, I was just like, it is so easy to cheat. I was shocked. Now it's at a point where it's like, okay, finally. It's not like someone hands you a cup and is like, ‘go in that room over there and just come back with something.' And I'd be like, ‘how is that even...?'"
MMA's drug crisis likely always existed, but only recently did it come to the forefront of the discussion. Within a span of a several months in late 2014 to early 2015, former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Nick Diaz, Hector Lombard, and Jon Fitch all tested positive for various substances, shining a light on an increasingly obvious drug problem within the sport.
The massive fallout from the string of testing failures led both the UFC and the Nevada Athletic Commission to overhaul their drug testing protocols and punishments, with the UFC ultimately bringing USADA into the fold as its chief partner in testing. That program went into effect on July 1, and Rousey is already emboldened by the results.
"It really encouraged me because I always thought that U.S. Anti-Doping was actually much more stringent than the international doping," Rousey said. "The U.S., what I really like about their Olympic program, they are out to get their athletes. Like, they are not out to try and help them pass international tests, so I was always really, really proud of that. So now I'm really proud of the drug testing we have in MMA now."