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Damned if they don't, damned if they do.

That's the feeling I had at the conclusion of Wednesday's Ultimate Fighting Championship news conference on performance-enhancing drugs.

For years, observers of mixed martial arts have scoffed at the UFC's seemingly lackadaisical efforts to control PEDs. Rightly so. While it was never an official stance, it felt like the promotion didn't care so much about PEDs in mixed martial arts unless it affected their bottom line.

Even then, Dana White famously trumpeted they were regulated by the government, as though those were the magic words that eliminated all of the tough questions about drugs and testing for drugs and whether or not a good portion of the UFC roster took PEDs.

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After a well-publicized false start to begin the year, the UFC finally showed the teeth of its proposed performance-enhancing drug-testing program on Wednesday—though it remains to be seen how much bite will follow the bark.

Spurred by a recent string of high-profile test failures, company executives held a press conference televised on Fox Sports 1 to announce plans to partner with independent third-party regulators in launching year-round out-of-competition testing for all its athletes by July 1.

UFC President Dana White, CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and general counsel Lawrence Epstein also said the UFC will continue to work with state athletic commissions to advocate for stiffer penalties and to fund increased testing across the board.

“Honestly? It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better,” said Fertitta of PEDs scandals that ensnared UFC fighters like Anderson Silva and Hector Lombard so far in 2015. “But we have to put these procedures in place to eventually make it better. It’s going to be a bumpy road, but we’re committed to making this happen.”

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A funny thing happened to Benson Henderson during the 19 minutes he spent in the cage Saturday with Brandon Thatch.

People started rooting for him.

Somewhere en route to his submission victory in the main event of UFC Fight Night 60, the 5,800 fans on hand in Broomfield, Colorado—who’d ostensibly turned out to see the local boy, Thatch—began to cheer Henderson instead.

Support built on social media, too, and by the time Henderson cemented his improbable comeback with a rear-naked choke down the stretch in the fourth round, it elicited in an uncharacteristic outpouring of love for the 31-year-old former lightweight champion.

Coupled with victory itself, this palpable shift in public opinion made Henderson’s 170-pound debut all the more magical. It was as though he’d been instantly transformed from malcontent to lovable underdog, from a guy nearly out of options to a man with a lot of moves still left on the board.


At UFC Fight Night 60, welterweight Brandon Thatch discovered something the world’s best lightweights have known for years.

Benson Henderson will suck the life out of you.

Thatch was supposed to have his launch party Saturday in his home state of Colorado, beginning his ascension to contender status with a short-notice bout over the former 155-pound champion. Instead, Henderson gave him a crash course in what it takes to be one of the UFC’s best.

Obviously outsized and surely outgunned, Henderson weathered an early push from Thatch in their main event fight, eventually taking control and scoring a come-from-behind submission victory with just over a minute left in the fourth round.

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At 38, Melvin Manhoef (29-13-1) is a finished product. You know exactly what to expect when he fights. There will be violence. It will be furious. And someone will end up looking at the ceiling.

Fifty-four times, in a career spanning almost 20 years, it's been his opponent who has been unable to finish the fight—the victim of powerful winging punches that are truly frightening to behold.

"I'm a junkie for the knockout," he said on the Bellator 133 broadcast, moments before walking to the cage. That's not subtle—but it's self-evidently true.

In recent years, as he's slowed and grapplers have improved their games, he's been the victim of his own success, chasing glory too often for his own good. When Manhoef smells blood, all science fades. There is only violence.

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No matter what happens when Benson Henderson takes on Brandon Thatch in the main event of UFC Fight Night 60 on Saturday, we’re probably going to need an asterisk or two.

Henderson vs. Thatch isn’t a fight that figures into anyone’s long-term plans, nor one we even could’ve anticipated as recently as a month ago. Make no mistake, there are clear stakes here for each guy, as Bendo moves up from lightweight to make a short-notice appearance at 170 pounds.

It’s just that putting it all in perspective will likely take some footnotes.

Obviously, this wasn’t the original blueprint. When UFC brass first marked it up on the whiteboard at Zuffa LLC headquarters, a stunningly relevant 170-pound contender bout between Matt Brown and Tarec Saffiedine* was meant to headline the Valentine's Day spectacular in Broomfield, Colorado.

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On Tuesday evening, the mixed martial arts Internet exploded with the news that Frankie Edgar and Urijah Faber would potentially, possibly, probably headline the UFC's first foray into the Philippines.

On Wednesday, the promotion made it official (via Thomas Gerbasi of UFC.com): The former UFC lightweight champ and the former WEC featherweight champ will do the five-round thing (at 145 pounds) against each other on May 16 in Manila.

But even before the fight was made official, the debate began raging (because MMA fans love nothing more than a debate): Should Edgar vs. Faber be considered a superfight? Arguments were made. People were right. The other people they were arguing with were wrong. On the Internet, there is no gray area: You're either correct, or you are an idiot.

Today, Jonathan Snowden and Jeremy Botter—MMA's version of Batman and Robin—get back together for another episode of "The Question." This time, they discuss whether Edgar vs. Faber can truly be considered a superfight.

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Over the past seven days, I have gone in hard on the UFC and its drug testing issues. I've said I believe they have a problem with performance enhancing drugs. I expressed my disappointment in their decision to cancel a planned comprehensive testing program that would randomly test every fighter on the UFC roster.

And I spoke of my belief that, if things did not change, it could lead the UFC and mixed martial arts in the wrong direction.

Today, we got our first glimpse that change might be on the horizon and that the UFC understands that changes must be made.

During Wednesday's broadcast of UFC Tonight, the hosts—Karyn Bryant, Daniel Cormier, Michael Bisping and guest Demetrious Johnson—discussed the issues surrounding PEDs in the UFC. The program noted that 13 UFC fighters have failed drug tests in the last 12 months. It was a moment of brutal honesty from a UFC-controlled show that could have easily avoided the subject altogether.

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Maybe we’re all feeling a little bit like Alexander Gustafsson right now.

You remember how Gustafsson’s 2015 started, right? The erstwhile light heavyweight No. 1 contender rolled into a Jan. 24 title eliminator against underdog Anthony Johnson with sky-high expectations, only to get flattened—crushed, really—in two minutes, 15 seconds.

Gustafsson left the Octagon in tears in front of roughly 30,000 fans in his hometown of Stockholm, Sweden. He was probably still a little dazed, wondering how a thing that was supposed to be so great so quickly went so wrong.

Yep, that’s us.

Already reeling from a raft of recent bad news, Tuesday found us neck-deep with yet another positive drug test. This time it was Hector Lombard, pulled from a scheduled bout with Rory MacDonald at UFC 186 after some unpronounceable steroid turned up in his system.

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If more fighters took the same kind of public stance on performance-enhancing drugs as UFC middleweight Tim Kennedy, the sport of mixed martial arts might be better off.

Not everybody can be Kennedy, of course. He is nearly one of a kind: a cerebral and talented fighter who is willing to speak his mind. He is a special forces operator who still, 12 years after beginning his professional mixed martial arts career, still does sporadic "work" for the United States government. What kind of work, Kennedy won't say. But it is safe to assume that, given his background as an elite sniper, Kennedy isn't building roads in foreign countries.

But more importantly to our interests, Kennedy is unafraid and unapologetic when it comes to the subject of PEDs. He believes mixed martial arts is a dirty and broken sport, and he is so disillusioned with the way things are going that he's not sure he'll ever fight again. He is not retired, he told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour (h/t MMA Fighting). But he also is not in a hurry to get back in the Octagon.

Kennedy isn't scared of pointing a little blame at Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White, either. He told Helwani that he sees what he believes is "lip service" from White and Fertitta every time somebody fails a drug test. Changes are promised, Kennedy said, "and then nothing changes."