Longtime UFC play-by-play announcer Mike Goldberg has been the subject of relentless speculation since he was abruptly pulled from his commentating duties on the afternoon of UFC 155 on Dec. 29.
The loudest of the rumors, which was published on several websites, claimed that Goldberg was sent to rehab to treat a drug addiction.
But on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Goldberg broke his weeks-long public silence with a strong declaration. Asked point-blank by MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani whether he has a drug problem, Goldberg said "I absolutely do not."
Goldberg has been the UFC's lead play-by-play commentator since 1997. Saturday marked the first time the veteran announcer missed a fight night in that span for reasons other than scheduling conflicts.
According to the announcer, the reason for the late withdrawal from the UFC 155 gig was the lingering effects of an upper respiratory infection originally contracted at UFC 153 in Brazil combined with Goldberg's ongoing battle with asthma. Jon Anik took Goldberg's place alongside color commentator Joe Rogan.
"I ended up coming home from Brazil with a virus, an upper respiratory infection, I ended up being hospitalized a couple times for it, just because they were making sure they could get my lungs open," Goldberg said. "And just the complications of, I'm an asthmatic, I have been since high school, the complications with trying to get proper medications to get this virus out of my body, I'm not the first guy to come back from Brazil not feeling 100 percent, it just kind of spiraled."
While not feeling 100 percent, the veteran broadcaster, who has called everything in his career from pro hockey to football in addition to his signature role as UFC announced, still wanted to gut it out and get through the night.
"I've had throat infections, chest infections I've had a head cold, during the 800 NHL games I called, in the 200 or so UFCs or so I've done since 1997. So yeah, I'm a prideful guy, I consider myself a fighter as far as my broadcast spot, I want to be in my seat at cageside during UFC 155, but it broke my heart that I wasn't able to do so. I was kicking and screaming because I wanted to call the fights, I wanted to call the [Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez] rematch, I wanted to be there for a big show just like every big show I want to be there.
"To put it simply, it was the perfect storm, my immune system was never really able to get back in balance, and then complications came, my voice started to go, and I wasn't able to get the pre-production done, and I wasn't able to voice it 100 percent, and I wasn't able to get it together for UFC 155."
Speculation began to swirl about Goldberg's condition almost as soon as news of his absence became public. Asked about the situation at the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White simply said, "Goldie's out for awhile, and I don't know when he'll be back. Next question."
Without an explanation, it was inevitable Internet rumors would crop up, which led to the internet reports of drug abuse.
"This is the society that we live in today," Goldberg said. "Everybody's got a Twitter, everyone pays 500 bucks for their website and all of a sudden, they're a ‘reliable source.' And one of those websites said something that was not true, and what disappointed me was how many ‘reliable sources' ... how many renegade websites and then legit websites just went with this gossip-site sources and assumed the worst, instead of checking their sources like they teach you in journalism 101 and make sure that the story is true. It was disappointing, it was hurtful, and yet the outpour of support by the majority of the people on social media, on Twitter was very heartfelt and it was appreciated.. People like to see people fail, people like gossip, people people like to think the worst, people unfortunately that's the society we live in. "
Goldberg will return to his play-by-play duties alongside Rogan on Saturday night at UFC on FOX 6 in Chicago. He told Helwani that he hasn't ruled out letting his attorney pursue legal action against the websites which accused him of having a drug problem, but beyond that, Goldberg says he's feeling better and ready to get back to work.
"I feel great, my immune system is back in check, and I feel ready to go and I'm excited to do the UFC on FOX."