At least that’s how Sonnen has chosen to frame the latest McGregor controversy, which revolves around the Irish superstar removing himself from the USADA testing pool during his recovery from a broken leg that he suffered in a fight with Dustin Poirier at UFC 264 in July 2021. McGregor’s maneuvering caused UFC light heavyweight contender and analyst Anthony Smith to question why McGregor would be allowed to opt in and out of testing of his own volition and social media posts showing off McGregor’s bulked-up physique have also led to fan discourse concerning the possible use of banned substances.
To Sonnen, it’s all part of the McGregor show as usual.
“Conor’s clean,” Sonnen said on The MMA Hour. “He’s been trolling, he’s been having fun with people. Come on. A guy doesn’t go out and do a crime and then document the crime. Conor put the pictures out. He’s having fun with people. He’s clean.”
In response to Smith’s accusations, McGregor lashed out on social media, calling Smith “embarrassment of a man” in a since-deleted tweet. Smith later replied on the Believe You Me podcast that McGregor’s outburst was proof that perhaps he was on to something when he questioned McGregor’s behavior.
Sonnen feels that McGregor has been playing his cards right and that however he managed to extricate himself from the testing pool, it was likely for convenience and not necessarily for nefarious purposes.
“I believe that Conor has chosen his words very carefully,” Sonnen said. “I believe that he’s creating conversation. I know that every word that he said is to insinuate that he’s avoiding the pool for scandalous reasons. Just to give you an example, Conor spoke five days ago and said, ‘I’ll be ready to enter the pool in February.’ What do you mean you’ll be ready? He knew what he was doing. He wanted that put out there.
“I will tell you, I believe that Conor left the pool. He’s never been clear on this. I believe he left because of logistical reasons. The whereabouts clause in violation of having to let someone know where you are 24/7/365, right, if you’re not where you said you’re going to be, it’s a mark and if you get three marks in a calendar year it’s an instant fail and that fail comes with a minimum punishment of two years [note: the USADA website actually says “up to two years for a first violation,” not a minimum]. I just bring for you that if he was off doing Road House and medication and he knew he wasn’t going to fight anyway and he just didn’t want to keep up on the organizational side of it, I think that he made the right decision. I think Conor is having fun with people, making them think that he’s on some form of anabolics.”
It’s unclear when McGregor plans to return to the USADA testing pool, but UFC President Dana White said at the UFC 280 post-fight press conference this past October that the former two-division champion will require a minimum of six months of testing before he is able to fight again.
What results will be uncovered are unclear given McGregor’s murky testing situation, but Sonnen is of the opinion that whatever the former two-division UFC champion has to do to repair his body, it’s fair game.
“There are things that are against the rules that would flag you for USADA that are 100 percent medically appropriate and sometimes even urgent and I don’t think any athlete, including Conor McGregor, should have to balance advice of a doctor about his health against a sports agency and they don’t really have room for that,” Sonnen said.
“I don’t think USADA has a lot of flaws, in fact I put them in the category of very reasonable people, but they don’t have anything for that. So if Conor wanted to remove himself to remove subjectivity to any kind of—He did the right thing.”