The world is jonesing for MMA, but dop­ing scan­dals cloud the UFC

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

THE Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship is gear­ing up for one of the big­gest events in its his­tory in Las Ve­gas this week­end, but a high-pro­file dop­ing case has cast a shadow over the cel­e­bra­tion of the fast­grow­ing sport of mixed mar­tial arts.

UFC 200, which boasts one of the most stacked cards in the pro­mo­tion’s his­tory, will cap days of events col­lec­tively dubbed In­ter­na­tional Fight Week that in­cludes amateur cham­pi­onships, a fan expo and some of the sport’s big­gest names in ac­tion.

But the top- billed light heavy­weight ti­tle fight be­tween Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones was abruptly can­celled this week af­ter the United States Anti-Dop­ing Agency in­formed UFC that the lat­ter failed an out-of-com­pe­ti­tion dope test on June 16.

With the pop­u­lar Ir­ish feath­er­weight cham­pion Conor McGre­gor pre­vi­ously kicked off the bill for not ful­fill­ing pro­mo­tional com­mit­ments, Jones was set to meet Cormier in a much- an­tic­i­pated main event.

With Jones, who was stripped of the light heavy­weight belt in April 2015 af­ter he was in­volved in a hit-an­drun ac­ci­dent, now out pend­ing the re­sult of tests on his B sam­ple, Cormier loses top billing but will still fight.

The UFC found a re­place­ment at just two days’ no­tice in Brazil­ian for­mer mid­dleweight cham­pion An­der­son Silva, who has pre­vi­ously served a sus­pen­sion for a dop­ing vi­o­la­tion.

The ti­tle fight be­tween holder Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes in a hugely com­pet­i­tive women’s ban­tamweight di­vi­sion that also in­cludes pre­vi­ous cham­pi­ons Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm is now the main event.

Last- minute changes to high- pro­file fight cards are noth­ing new in the UFC and even if they can have a neg­a­tive af­fect on pay-per-view sales, they have done lit­tle to slow its growth around the globe.

Bought for $2 mil­lion by the Fer­titta broth­ers Lorenzo and Frank in 2001, the com­pany that con­trols the UFC, Zuffa LLC, is ru­moured to be ex­plor­ing a sale that could value that pro­mo­tion com­pany at $3.5 bil­lion to $4 bil­lion.

With McGre­gor set for a re­match against Nate Diaz, who shocked the fight­ing world in March at UFC 196 when he de­feated the Ir­ish­man, and Rousey also set to re­turn, the UFC looks set to con­tinue to grow in pop­u­lar­ity.

But a lit­tle over a year into its anti- dop­ing co- op­er­a­tion with USADA, the or­ga­ni­za­tion is still com­ing to grips with per­for­mance- en­hanc­ing sub­stances, as ev­i­denced by Diaz’s com­ments about the Jones test at a news con­fer­ence on Thursday. “Every­body’s on steroids,” he joked. – Reuters

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