Tim Means is ready to get back inside the UFC Octagon.
The welterweight fighter was recently suspended from competition after being flagged for a banned substance prior to his UFC Fight Night 83 main event showdown against Donald Cerrone in February.
In the wake of the USADA violation, Means maintained his innocence, asserting that either the testing machinery or one of his supplements was tainted. Recently, Means and his legal team reached a settlement with USADA. Means would accept a six-month suspension, retroactive to February, after extensive testing proved one of his supplements to indeed be tainted.
While the news sits well with Means now, the situation was brutal when it was first announced. He couldn't think about fighting, and he was facing a potential two-to-four-year suspension, so he did what he saw as his only option.
"I went and got another job," Means told MMA Fighting. "I couldn’t be in fight mode then. I was aggravated and didn’t need to have my mindset in a fist fight, so I went and started learning how to do metal fabricating. I went from something where I was team captain in my trade to the lower end of the totem pole, to the bottom. It was a very humbling experience. I went from something I was good at, that I loved to do, to something I didn’t know anything about and really didn’t have interest in...
"The suspension that they offered, I put the worst-case scenario in my head. I have two daughters that are permanently living with me now, so there was no time to sit and wait and let stress build up. I had to keep my mind busy."
While it was always in the back of his mind that his suspension could potentially be reduced or maybe even eliminated completely, Means said he was close to giving up the MMA dream altogether.
"I wasn’t really interested in MMA [after I was flagged with the potential violation]," Means said. "I was mad. I was mad at it. I threw my whole life into mixed martial arts, and I had to step back and let USADA do its tests. [UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance] Jeff Novitsky helped me, and we brought [attorney] Howard Jacobs in, so I let them do what they do, and I just tried to step back and stay sane and realize how much I do love mixed martial arts."
As the case shaped up, Means, Novitsky, and Jacobs realized they had built a strong argument. Means was almost certain the scales of justice would tip in his favor, and, slowly, he was able to talk himself back into life inside the steel cage.
"We knew about the tainted supplement months and months ago, so it’s just frustrating USADA had this stuff and we’re waiting on tests... I had to jump through one hoop after another," Means said. "I’m hoping to return in August. I have my fingers crossed. None of that is set, but there’s a card Aug. 20, and maybe that can happen."
Before the violation, Means was scheduled to face Cerrone in the main event of UFC Fight Night 83 in Pittsburgh, but he realizes such a stage is improbable for his comeback fight. The violation not only robbed him of six months of training and fighting, it directly cost him a high-profile main event showdown. Because of this, Means and his team is willing to pursue further action to get what they believe to be his.
"People have been sued for a lot less – main event, lost wages, there’s a lot left on the table," Means said. "That’s something I’m going to let Howard Jacobs handle, my attorney. He’s very interested and very good at what he does. So I’m going to let him handle that aspect. I just have to get back to doing my job...
"I understand things do happen, accidents do happen, but it wasn’t like they [the supplement company] popped up and said, ‘Oh, hey, we’re sorry. Let us fix this.’ They threw me under the bus and left me there, so, man, if it does come to a lawsuit-type thing, I want to own everything including their underwear when this is done."
As that situation takes shape, Means turns his attention to his fighting future. He wants the August date, and he doesn't much care who's standing in his way. "The Dirty Bird" is frustrated, and he's ready to throw down.
"I’m ready just to get in there whenever," Means said. "Everyone knows I want the Cerrone fight. Cerrone knows I want that fight. I’m not calling him out right now. He has a big step in front of him with [Patrick] Cote. He’s a fighter who shows up to fight, so eventually that can happen down the road. We’ll go from there. I’m just ready to get back in there."