Conor McGregor has stirred a lot of controversy lately after it was revealed that he had removed himself from the UFC’s anti-doping program while recovering from a broken leg suffered in his most recent fight.
While the former two-division champion has to undergo six months of drug testing before he’s allowed to compete again, McGregor didn’t get released from his UFC contract or retire from the sport, which have usually been the only two reasons why an athlete would completely drop out of the program.
As much as that might seem like special treatment, UFC welterweight Matt Brown says ultimately McGregor isn’t doing anything wrong except exposing a flaw in the current anti-doping policy.
“If you have a criticism against that rule then you have to criticize that rule but anybody can do that,” Brown said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “So fair game to him for that. Having the ranking is questionable and then I heard he’s attempting to get an exemption kind of like Brock Lesnar did when Brock came back for UFC 200.
“I don’t know why the UFC would do that for Conor being that him fighting in March or February versus him fighting in August or September doesn’t really change the bottom line. He’s going to be a draw no matter when he fights whereas Brock Lesnar fought for UFC 200 when they kind of gave him an exemption for two months to come back without testing for six months.”
The exemption that Lesnar was granted allowed him to return at compete at UFC 200 without enduring the typical requirements for fighters coming out of retirement but then he tested positive for a banned substance, which led to a suspension.
Under the current version of the UFC’s anti-doping policy, fighters who exit the drug-testing pool must undergo six months of additional testing before being allowed to compete again unless granted an exemption with at least two clean tests being returned prior to a fight.
McGregor actually hinted at that possibility when he first addressed his absence from the UFC’s anti-doping program, although first he would have to apply for an exemption and then the United States Anti-Doping Agency would have to grant it.
Either way, Brown doesn’t believe what McGregor is doing right now is inherently wrong because the UFC’s anti-doping policy allows for it to happen and he’s actually surprised more fighters haven’t done the same.
“I think we all know why [he dropped out of the testing pool] but it’s just a loophole,” Brown said. “We can all exploit it. Any of us could exploit it. I don’t think most of us make the money he has to afford that much time off, right? He has the money, he’s still pretty young. He’s young enough, he obviously has the money. He doesn’t have to fight again if he doesn’t want to. Most guys, the vast majority of guys, can’t afford to take a year off, do six months of steroids and six months back in the testing pool. Otherwise, I guarantee you way more people would be doing it. It’s a simple loophole. There’s no reason that guys wouldn’t be doing it.
“It’s kind of always surprised me nobody has exploited this to a greater extent where they fight once a year, pull out of the pool straight away. Do six months of steroids, six months of testing, fight again. It surprised me no one has done this.”
Whether McGregor is using performance-enhancing drugs right now while not being tested by the USADA is unknown, although Brown believes there are at least a few fighters who can already cheat the system regardless of the UFC’s anti-doping program.
“Guys like Conor, they have the means and the doctors and money to spend to be able to beat it,” Brown said. “I don’t know those ways. I don’t have access to those people to teach me that stuff or do it for me. Guys like him do so why wouldn’t they do it?”
In the past, Brown has been much more critical when addressing fighters using illegal substances to potentially gain a competitive advantage, although his perspective has changed a lot in recent years.
“The last card before USADA, I fought Johny Hendricks, I believe I was co-main event — there’s no doubt he was juiced to the f****** gills,” Brown said. “So I had tons of criticisms about this stuff back in the day. But when you think about it critically and rationally, I was the fool for not doing it, especially pre-USADA. That was my mistake.
“My views have changed a lot on that. I don’t necessarily hate on guys for doing it. The next guy’s going to do it, too.”
When it comes to McGregor’s current status, Brown says technically he’s not doing anything wrong right now and that’s all that really matters.
“He’s following the rules,” Brown said. “You can’t hate on him. He’s following the f****** rules.”