A Titan FC champion says he was pulled from his headlining title defense by the athletic commission — minutes before he was about to walk to the cage — due to a positive drug test.
Juan Puerta, Titan’s flyweight champion, told MMA Fighting that officials from the Florida State Boxing Commission informed him Friday night that he tested positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and would not be allowed to fight in the Titan FC 53 main event. Puerta said he has been suspended by the commission indefinitely.
Puerta was set to defend the belt against Gustavo Balart in the main event of the card, which took place in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and aired live on UFC Fight Pass. Titan FC COO Lex McMahon told MMA Fighting that the commission informed him of the fight being canceled in the fourth round of the co-main event.
Puerta said he was administered a urine test about an hour before the scheduled fight and the results apparently came back rapidly. When reached by phone Friday night by MMA Fighting, Florida State Boxing Commission executive director Patrick Cunningham declined comment, referring questions to the commission’s press office, which won’t be open until Monday.
McMahon addressed the gathered crowd at Xtreme Action Park and the viewers at home in the cage after the co-main event. He announced that the main event had been canceled, but at the time did not give a reason.
McMahon said the situation was “mind-blowing” and like nothing he had seen in more than 10 years in MMA. He believes that the commission should have let Puerta fight and adjudicate the case after the fact. McMahon said the commission has withheld Puerta’s purse as a result of the drug-test failure, but Balart was paid his purse. Puerta will remain the Titan champ for the time being, McMahon said, as the promotion waits to see how his case with the commission plays out.
“It’s an unfortunate thing,” McMahon said. “At the end of the day, the fans lost what was going to be an amazing fight. Gustavo Balart had an opportunity to become a champion. Puerta had the opportunity to defend his belt. Everybody loses; nobody wins with this thing. At the end of the day, it’s pot. It’s not a performance-enhancing drug. Commissions across the country have been dealing with this issue. Some of the more aggressive commissions have [increased] their tolerances.
“For Florida to take the position they did is very frustrating for me. I work with them, obviously, day in and day out. I think that they generally do a great job. I appreciate them. But I think they got this one wrong. I think it has a profound affect on a lot of different people. It’s truly unfortunate.”
Puerta, 31, said he had eaten cannabidiol (CBD) gummies on Monday and Tuesday as a way to relax during fight week after a hard training camp. He said he assumes now that some of them might have had THC in them.
“It’s not like I’m taking performance-enhancing drugs,” Puerta said. … “Some people just have a lot of anxiety. I have a lot of anxiety before my fights. Bottom line, you’re getting locked in a cage with somebody who is trying to kill you or rip your head off. I just wanted to relax Monday and Tuesday while I’m cutting weight after I just finished a grueling, seven-week camp.”
Cannabinoids, the chemical compounds of cannabis, are prohibited in-competition under Florida State Boxing Commission statutes. Both THC and CBD are cannabinoids. CBD is widely used in MMA. Puerta even had a CBD company sponsor for this scheduled fight, which is a common occurrence recently for fighters.
Florida has a strict liability when it comes to cannabinoids — zero tolerance. Other state athletic commissions follow the World Anti-Doping Agency Code (WADA), which sets the in-competition urinary threshold for Carboxy-THC at 150 ng/ml. WADA-accredited labs are not required to report adverse analytical findings below that level. Puerta said the Florida commission did not even test for a level, just the presence of the drug.
Puerta said he was shocked when he found out and is “heartbroken” over the situation.
“I’m just gonna be a man and admit it,” Puerta said of his CBD use. “I’m not gonna try to weasel out of it. I’ve gotta deal with the consequences now. It’s gonna be pretty drastic. I’m just really bummed. I don’t know even know what to say anymore. I know I let a lot of people down.
“I messed it up for a lot of people. I messed it up for myself, I messed it up for Lex and Titan FC. I messed it up for everyone. UFC Fight Pass, UFC. I don’t know where my career will go after this. I want to apologize to Titan, UFC and UFC Fight Pass and everyone else who came out to watch. I feel like I was the top flyweight prospect heading into this fight. You kind of just make some bad choices and it goes downhill.”
Puerta (16-6) won the Titan flyweight title by defeating Kazbek Ashimov by third-round submission at Titan 51 in December. The American Top Team product owns a victory over Balart, via third-round knockout, from February 2018. In all, Puerta, a Georgia native, has won five straight and is ranked No. 1 among flyweight prospects competing in the U.S. Southeast.