The Question: Does the UFC Have a Drug Problem?

Jeremy Botter@jeremybotterMMA Senior WriterFebruary 4, 2015

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today

The UFC's announcement of Anderson Silva's failed test for performance-enhancing drugs once again brought the topic of PEDs in mixed martial arts to the forefront of discussion. It's a sore subject.

But in reality, performance-enhancing drugs have been an albatross around the neck of the sport since the beginning, and nothing has changed. 

Today, intrepid MMA lead writers Jonathan Snowden and Jeremy Botter re-form their version of the Megapowers to tackle the latest installment of The Question: Does the UFC have a drug problem? 

Read on for the answer. 

Jeremy: Hey, Jonathan, do you remember the good old days? And by the good old days, I mean like two months ago, back before the UFC's current best fighter and the man many consider to be the best fighter of all time each popped for very different drugs?

It feels like this is a heated thing, with Anderson Silva and Jon Jones in the spotlight, because they are supposed to represent the best this sport has to offer. They're still the best the sport has to offer, of course; it's just that one of them likes doing recreational drugs and the other, well, it looks like he's probably a cheater.

But as you've constantly reminded everyone, the notion of a top UFC star failing for performance-enhancing drugs shouldn't surprise anyone. When I heard about Silva's failed test on Tuesday night, I went: Oh. Well, that's not surprising.

And that's a disappointment. Silva is supposed to represent something different. Or perhaps we are far too idealistic about a sport consumed with violence.

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So the questions we're here to address today are: Does the UFC have a drug problem? Has the UFC always HAD a drug problem? And does it even matter anymore?

Jonathan: I think the answer to all of those questions is a clear "yes." But before we jump into the heart of the matter, I wanted to run something by you.

I've been thinking a lot about Silva today. For once, however, that's not creepy. At least not entirely.

Royce Gracie failed for Nandolone in 2007
Royce Gracie failed for Nandolone in 2007Ethan Miller/Getty Images

I've seen many people in our world declare their shock and surprise at his drug bust. And, though an MMA star popping hot shouldn't surprise anyone in 2015, I don't think it's feigned.

This isn't simply the outrage we've all become accustomed to expressing online. It's something deeper.

Silva's steroid use is legitimately surprising to people, not because he's some kind of MMA saint, but because he's got chicken legs and the skinny arms of a bullied teen in a 1970s Charles Atlas comic book ad.

And that? That's hilarious.

Jeremy: That is hilarious because it shows that our mind's idea of what a steroid user should look like stems solely from pre-2009 World Wrestling Entertainment. But you and I both know this isn't the case.

Folks who juice don't have to look like they're juicing, if that makes sense. They don't have to have the bulging muscles. Steroid abusers can look like you or me.

Well, that might be a stretch. But they can look like Silva, at least. You can look at some dudes and go, yeah, they are taking all kinds of sauce. But you can look at other guys, at Silva or Royce Gracie, and never figure out they're taking something unless they fail a drug test.

At this point, nothing is surprising. There are many 3-4 fighters who, if they failed a test, would surprise me. And even then, I'd have to look down in the depths of my soul and find out if I'm really surprised, or if I'm just pretending to be surprised. Because it is a fact: Performance-enhancing drugs are absolutely rampant in mixed martial arts.

Jonathan: The fact that three of the UFC's last four headliners have failed drug tests is a pretty clear indication that the company does, in fact have a drug problem. That the mainstream world doesn't seem to care is both a good and a bad thing.

On some level, the UFC has to feel relieved that even the most aberrant behavior isn't enough to bring more than just momentary scrutiny from the mass media. They are free, as always, to operate almost entirely beneath the radar, a niche sport responsible only to its small group of loyal fans and athletes.

Then again, after a decade of fighting for mainstream acceptance, it almost has to hurt seeing the sport's biggest superstar reduced to the level of a WNBA players' contract dispute on the national stage.

Even poor boxing, disparaged as it is, would garner legitimate headlines if Floyd Mayweather tested positive for cocaine before a fight or was caught using steroids. But when it happens to Anderson Silva? Crickets.

MMA has a drug problem for sure. But that may be the least of their worries at this point.