Leading into UFC 153, I was in Stephan Bonnar's corner.
I say this while fully realizing that Bonnar is not the greatest fighter in the history of the sport; he's not even close. If we had a true mixed martial arts hall of fame, one that isn't dependent on or slanted toward a single promotion, Bonnar would be nowhere near consideration.
Perhaps, he should be considered for the UFC Hall of Fame, because he's meant a lot to that company and they tend to reward people who have made significant contributions to their bottom line. But we all know that's not a true hall of fame. It doesn't reward fighters for careers filled with greatness; it rewards those who helped the UFC out the most. And that's fine. As the old saying goes, it is what it is.
Today's news that Bonnar failed his post-fight drug test after losing to Anderson Silva in Brazil was disheartening. I wanted to buy into the notion that Bonnar, a guy who never reached the heights attained by his partner in crime Forrest Griffin, was giving it all for one last shot at glory.
Sure, he faced incredible odds, and few people in the world believed he had a chance. But, he was "stepping up" for the UFC. He was showing all of those young, rich fighters how to truly play the game the way that old-school guys like Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell and Mark Coleman did. He was going for it, even though he faced certain doom.
And in the end, he lost. But that's not the sad part; we knew that was coming. The sad part is that Bonnar felt the need to cheat to help him prepare for the fight.
Bonnar failed for Drostanolone, an anabolic steroid utilized mostly for cutting weight. It inhibits the retention of water, making the weight-cutting process easier. And in hindsight, we should have seen it coming; Bonnar was absolutely gigantic during fight week in Brazil. We've seen Bonnar display a good physique before, but nothing like this. And he flaunted it, assuming traditional bodybuilding poses during open workouts, all the while knowing that there was a pretty good chance he was going to fail his drug test in just a few days.
I realize that Bonnar was probably incredibly heavy when he got the call to face Silva. He was semi-retired, after all, and hadn't stayed in fighting shape or even something resembling it. Perhaps, he felt he needed the steroid to get down to fighting weight. And maybe, just maybe, he figured it was his last fight, anyway, so he threw caution to the wind and took Drostanolone. Who cares if he fails the drug test, if he's retiring immediately afterward?
It was a dumb decision. Bonnar may not have a legacy as an all-time great fighter, but he had something. He was crucial to helping push the UFC ever onward, and it was very likely that he'd slide directly from the cage into an analyst position with Fox Sports. And perhaps he'll still be afforded that opportunity. He's likeable enough on camera and speaks well, and he has an entire career's worth of experience to draw from. The UFC and Fox need those kinds of people.
But Bonnar's decision to cheat—and at the end of the day, his actions were cheating, no matter how you slice it—will tarnish his legacy. Instead of being known as Stephan Bonnar, company man, exciting fighter, he'll be known as the guy who failed two drug tests for steroids. And those two drug failures will make people look more closely at his fighting record in the cage, when they might have been more apt to overlook it had he not failed a drug test in the final fight of his career.
Maybe, it doesn't matter at all to Bonnar. Maybe, he can live his life in peace in Las Vegas and contribute when needed to Fox UFC broadcasts. And maybe, he's OK with people remembering him more for failing two drug tests than for putting on one of the greatest fights in the history of the sport.
But he shouldn't be OK with it. And neither should you.