The UFC returned to the state of Michigan for the first time since UFC 9 when UFC 123 was held at the Palace of Auburn Hills on November 20, 2010. The event wasn't without some controversy as the first round of the Gerald Harris vs. Maiquel Falcao bout ended early due to poor time keeping and may have cost Falcao a chance to finish a choke.
Now, sixteen months later, another bit of interesting news from that card is bubbling to the surface.
In the wake of the news that the Association of Boxing Commission had sent a letter to all its member commissions telling them to no longer license fighters from the state of Michigan and to not recognize fights taking place in the state, Bloody Elbow Radio's Matt Bishop e-mailed me and asked if anyone was aware that Tyson Griffin had tested positive for something following UFC 123. Matt had found the information out while looking at some meeting minutes on the commission's webpage.
After searching up and down the internet, I could find no mention of Griffin having tested positive for anything, but the meeting minutes were quite clear (emphasis mine):
2. TYSON LEE GRIFFIN - Complaint No. 316174
The Commission reviewed the Stipulation and complaint. The respondent admits to violation of Sections MCL 338.3648(6)(a) and R 339.269(3). The Stipulation, in part, provides for the following:
a. At the next unarmed combat or boxing contest Respondent participates in as a contestant, within the State of Michigan, Respondent may be specifically selected for a post-contest urine screening to measure the presence of alcohol or drugs.
b. Respondent shall pay a fine in the amount of $250 within 60 days from the mailing date of the Final Order.
c. Failure to comply with the terms and conditions within 60 days from the mailing date of the Final Order shall result in a suspension of all licenses or registration renewals and denial of future applications for licensure until compliance is made.
d. Respondent license was summarily suspended for at least 100 days.
It was moved by Mr. Mueller and supported by Mr. Packer to accept the Stipulation. The motion passed unanimously.
With Griffin a recognizable UFC fighter whose bout at 123 was his twelfth on the sport's biggest stage, it simply didn't make sense for this to have been a non-story.
The test failure not only wasn't reported by any news website, it didn't appear to be publicly acknowledged by the UFC either.
A call was placed to the Michigan Unarmed Combat Commission to determine why this information was never made public as well as to find out exactly what Griffin tested positive for. Carol Moultine of the commission informed me that the state followed their procedures exactly in this case and that if I wanted to know what Tyson tested positive for, I would have to file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the file.
That's exactly what I did and a week later I received the disciplinary action report for Griffin and found out that he had tested positive for Cannabinoids. A PDF copy of the relevant page of the disciplinary report can be read here.
It almost becomes more strange when the test is for marijuana rather than some sort of performance enhancing drug when it comes the UFC not making it public knowledge. Then again, in 2006, Diego Sanchez tested positive for the presence of marijuana following his defeat of Joe Riggs and when the California State Athletic Commission didn't make that news public, the UFC also didn't acknowledge it until the story was picked up by the Orange County Register.
Dana White said that he felt Griffin had been screwed in a big way when he lost the UFC 123 fight via split decision to Nik Lentz, but one has to wonder if he had won if the decision would have been changed to a no contest like Nick Diaz's win over Takanori Gomi. And, while Tyson is not a star on the level of Diaz, we've seen the firestorm that accompanies positive tests for marijuana with the Gomi fight and, more recently, the UFC 143 bout with Carlos Condit where Diaz tested positive again.
There were already questions surrounding if Griffin would be let go following the loss, given it was his third in a row, but Dana elected to keep him and Tyson dropped to featherweight in his next bout. That move to featherweight is where a conspiracy theorist may look and think that the UFC was more than happy to have a drug test go unspoken with a fighter who was expected to be a game changer once featherweight came to the UFC.
In another strange moment during the research for this story, I contacted Stars MMA while waiting for the disciplinary action file to see if they (and Tyson) had a statement regarding the situation. Griffin's manager returned the call and was very upset on the phone that I would report on the issue. He repeatedly told me that there was no sense reporting on the story and then getting upset that I would bring something that happened multiple fights ago to light. Given that I didn't even know what Griffin had tested positive for at the time I asked how it was not news that someone tested positive for something that was kept from the public and asked if it was PED related, which would make a 10 pound drop in his next fight a much bigger deal. Rather than simply informing me that it was for marijuana he said "good luck with the Freedom of Information Act request, we have no comment beyond that" and ended our conversation.
It all adds up to such a strange story:
For a promotion which has voluntarily made positive drug tests public knowledge (Chris Leben being caught by UFC testing in England for UFC 89), why is this the second positive test for marijuana (that we know of) to have been kept out of the public eye?
For Michigan, why did they not make this information public? The public pays for the government commission to operate and pays for tickets/pay-per-views for the events, anything the commission does should be made easily accessible for the public.
And for Stars MMA, why would you not take advantage of a chance to get out in front of the story with me and offer comment? Why add another layer of resistance and mystery to a story I made clear was going to come to light?
In the end we're left with a lot of questionable behavior around a simple 100 day license suspension during a time when drug testing is at the forefront of the media with Diaz's marijuana conviction and the continued presence of testosterone replacement therapy in the headlines.
White brags about how heavily regulated the UFC is, but what does that mean when the public isn't always fully aware of what that regulation detects?
As of the time of this writing the UFC has not responded to multiple e-mail and phone requests for comment on the issue.