The UFC’s Respectable Idiot

Respected journalist Josh Gross recently dropped a bombshell piece over on Deadspin, detailing how the UFC inadvertently distributed a pre-fight drug test of Vitor Belfort before his fight with Jon Jones. The drug tests results indicated that Belfort’s testosterone levels when tested were beyond the acceptable range.  Reading the piece brought to mind many things, some evident,  others not so much.  Digesting the article served to add another brick in the wall to a thought I’ve been having for quite a while now.

 
Reading the Gross piece, the thing that stuck out in my mind was how the piece put a stake through the heart of Marc Ranter’s last remaining shreds of respectability and credibility.  Ratner was brought into the UFC after a long and storied tenure as Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.  With us all being younger and much more foolish then, we were naive enough to think coming into the UFC with NSAC bona fides brought with it an air of competence and credibility, a thought that would be laughed at on its’ face these days. With the handling of the Nick Diaz Affair being only the most recent of NSAC goofs, according such reverence to an NSAC luminary would be unheard of these days.

 

Nonetheless, Ratner was brought into the UFC  as VP of Government and Regulatory affairs, which mainly consisted of aiding in the process of legalizing MMA in various and sundry states and countries. As legalization became less of a concern, Ratner was also named  to oversee the process of drug testing in areas where there were no commissions, and the UFC itself acted as the regulator.  While self-regulation by the UFC was always viewed askance from media onlookers, Ratner’s reputation served as a facade of respectability for a fairly opaque process. The UFC’s self regulation was always marked by a lack of transparency, but with Ratner at the helm with his track record of honesty and integrity, the UFC seemed to get the benefit of the doubt.

 

And it seems we couldn’t have been more wrong.  As the UFC took a larger and larger role in drug testing over and above in situations where they were regulator , they only served to make bigger mistakes. Calling them mistakes would be generous, or, if we are being less generous, wantonly ignoring over the limit tests like those of Belfort  and counting bogus tests like those against Cung Le as positive.  Ratner, in his role as drug chief, proved to be woefully not up to the expected prudence, proficiency and good faith needed from such a position.

 

In the case of Belfort, we see a man whose testosterone levels were clearly suspect, but nothing was done.  In the role of NSAC head, Ratner would have no choice but to act on this information.  With the Belfort v Jones bout going on without a hitch, he seems to have shrank from the task.  This doesn’t even speak to  Ratner’s blind eye to the era of TRT hall passes that saw UFC doctors referring fighters like Rampage Jackson for testosterone replacement therapy.

 

In the Cung Le case, the UFC made beginner level errors in testing Le, yet exonerating Le was a prolonged process. Ratner, exhibiting an even baseline of drug testing competence, would have actually used the proper test for HGH, or in the absence of that, seen the testing results as useless and  moved to throw out the suspension post haste. But that isn’t what happened. The UFC tried to get Cung to agree to confess if he was given a lesser sentence.  In trying to railroad an innocent man, maybe Mr Old School NSAC had more in common with The New School NSAC than we ever knew.

 

The scary thought in all of this is that the Le and Belfort cases are only the ones we know about.  What other skeletons are in the closet of the UFC drug testing policies, under a regime that has been shown to be incompetent.

 

As the testing snafus have piled up, Ratner’s reputation of credibility has been revealed to be much like the Emporer’s new clothes, a product of group think, that in the end was never really there.  Ratner was the one man in the UFC who had prior experience in the testing process, but that served of little use as the UFC made wrong move after wrong move. The picture we get of Ratner is of one who is either ignorant to the poor testing protocols of the UFC or one who is well aware and content to fiddle while Rome burns.  Neither paints a very good picture of Ratner. As USADA overtakes the role of drug testing and punishment coordinator for the UFC, it seems Ratner has outlived his role as the respectable idiot for the UFC. A ride off into the Vegas sunset in the form of retirement may be just what is called for to wash our hands of this sad end to a multitude of sorry episodes.
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