Those who follow MMA are, by now, aware of GSP’s slight ‘throwing of the gauntlet’ towards the UFC, stating he partly left the organization and the sport due to its reluctance to get onboard with stricter testing of its fighters. UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta stated he is “extremely disappointed” with GSP’s remarks and seems genuinely taken aback.
While GSP’s aims initially appeared noble to me — and, to be sure, I remain a huge fan of the gentleman and legendary sportsman)… this does not, upon closer reflection, seem either gentlemanly or sportsmanlike of GSP.
You see, GSP only recently began on this ‘kick’ of volunteering to be tested. Rumors of his use had plagued him for years so, one wonders: was this endeavor a selfish one, to put the doubters to rest? Fair enough. Was it to reveal his opponent’s use? If so, now we’re getting into murkier territory. But let’s assume the plain interpretation: bothered by the widespread use of TRT, and also eager to show he does not partake in any abuse of PED’s, GSP decided, late in his career, and for one fight, to advocate for stricter testing.
OK. The problem is: why the need to throw the UFC under the bus? It reeks of bitterness, by a man who has no reason to be bitter. On the contrary, GSP owes nearly everything he enjoys today to the UFC: his money, his fame, his ability to do what he loves for a living… the list goes on.
From a psychological standpoint, I believe GSP is suffering from the ‘burning the bridge’ syndrome. Sometimes, upon leaving a longheld position, it is human nature to relish in the freedom (?) and the breaking of ties by mouthing off with airing grievances. Clearly, GSP felt the UFC did not adequately support him in his quest. But why the need to take this sentiment public? Particularly on such a sensitive issue? Why the need to imply certain motives? (he surmised the UFC’s reluctance was due to money or image motivations)
There is also the issue of GSP’s reference to the UFC as a “monopoly,” where fighters cannot speak out for fear of retribution. Putting aside the monopoly angle (it’s too silly to even address — see e.g., Bellator, WSOF, and the many other promotions), the ’employees can’t speak up!’ angle is also, well, one of those: “Yeah, AND???” moments. Maybe GSP hasn’t worked in many places (I’ve worked since I was sixteen) but, hmm, newsflash: that’s the way it usually works with employers/employees. Most employees cannot and do not criticize their employer and, if they do, there is usually some sort of penalty. That’s just the way the market — and the world — works. If I’m an employer paying someone’s salary, yeah, I’m going to expect that they don’t put me on blast publicly.
None of this, of course, is meant to harshly criticize GSP. He certainly does have a point about the need for stricter testing in the sport. Penalties for those caught should also be stricter. But that is not the UFC’s role or responsibility. The UFC, folks often forget (even, apparently, GSP), is a promotion company. It is not the sport, the sanctioning body, or the ruling authority. It is a promoter that signs fighters to contracts and produces shows. It is, therefore, not the UFC’s responsibility to impose or enforce testing that goes above-and-beyond that which is done by the athletic commissions. Period. Full stop. The reasons?
a) As I mentioned, because it’s — as huge and powerful as it is — simply a promotion company. Does Don King administer testing on his fighters?
b) Do we even want to shift this burden away from neutral bodies such as athletic commissions, and onto private companies? Do you trust every MMA promotion company to impart testing fairly and neutrally? Of course not. But in advocating for the UFC to instigate additional testing, we would effectively shift the burden away from neutral bodies and onto the companies themselves. I need not spell out why this would be a mess. Have a problem with the testing, GSP? Write a letter to the NSAC or stand outside their office with a sign.
c) While I hate to sound pessimistic, is there even any point to these tests? Science and PED’s are simply moving faster than the testing methods. There are all sorts of new PED’s developed each year — as well as ways to avoid their use showing up on tests. So the testing will be completely scatterbrained in who it ‘busts’ and who it doesn’t. Heck, it may even have the terribly unfortunate result of favoring wealthy, established fighters over lower-income, up-and-coming fighters (fighters with deep pockets can afford the most sophisticated PED’s, the most sophisticated administrators of said PED’s, and the most sophisticated information on how to avoid its surfacing on a test).
d) If the UFC were to institute strict testing, it would create chaos and a complete imbalance in the market. Other promotion companies simply could pass on the testing and, heck, there goes Vitor Belfort to Bellator. Hmm, tell me again why you should have to do this to yourself if you’re the UFC?
e) If PED abuse is something the fans agree with GSP on, and feel so strongly about, perhaps they should speak up. Stop supporting fighters who have tested positive in the past or have TRT exemptions due to low testosterone likely caused by abuse in the past. But the fans don’t. On the contrary, they complain when a card is ‘boring.’ Fans want to see knockouts and they want to see their favorite fighters enjoy longevity and stick around. Well, that’s sometimes made possible by PED’s. So don’t blame the UFC for giving the fans what they want and washing their hands of the PED responsibility.
GSP is the sport’s most beloved fighter because he always conducted himself honorably and intelligently. Advocating for a messy change to current standards, and suddenly throwing his former employer under the bus, is not becoming of the great fighter. You’re better than this, GSP. If you’re going to go out, go out on a high note. Don’t pull a Canseco.