In the wake of his failed drug test preceding UFC 146, Alistair Overeem has been facing heavy criticism from the MMA fanbase. His positive test for synthetic testosterone destroyed one of the most anticipated matches of 2012 so far. This week The Reem has hit the MMA blogosphere again through his twitter account. On Monday, Alistair announced his desire to return to competition this December. Considering the fact that Overeem is suspended until late December, a 2012 return seems very unlikely. However, the scenario did get me thinking about when we could realistically expect to see his return.
Predicting that requires a look back at the previous PED related suspensions and subsequent returns in the UFC:
Stephan Bonnar – Suspended 9 months after UFC 62 loss to Forrest Griffin (Nov. 3, 2006)
Fight against Mike Nickels announced April 28, 2007 for UFC 73 (July 7, 2007) (note: MMAjunkie speculated that the fight would be at Ultimate Fight Night 10 based on Nickels proclamation of "in 5 weeks" after Ring of Fire event. However, the fight wouldn't take place for four weeks after that)
I was actually surprised by the research here. With 6 suspended fighters in the last 5 years there were actually two instances when the UFC actually announced a fight before the fighter's suspension was lifted. The cases of Bonnar and Leben add support to Overeem's desire to compete at the annual end of the year fight night. Both TUF (The Ultimate Fighter) veterans had their fights announced well before their suspension had been completely served.
Despite, those two counter examples though, it seems very unlikely that Alistair will get a fight immediately following his suspension.
Both Bonnar and Leben were fairly prolific UFC figures at the time of their suspension. Their notoriety was at it's peak with the huge influx of TUF fans at that time. Additionally, MMA as a whole was much more low key as a sport then. Overeem does not carry either of these benefits, as Dana White has already thrust his career into the hands of Lorenzo Fertitta.
Considering that Alistair Overeem doesn't enjoy the benefit of the more restricted media coverage of the earlier days or the general good graces of the UFC executive staff, I find it very doubtful that he receives the preferential scheduling that Bonnar and Leben got. As an MMA fan I'm disappointed to say that we shouldn't expect to say The Reem in action until late February or March 2013 at the earliest.
HT: TC Engel - An incredible human being who blessed me with his aid in recalling UFC fighters who had been caught for PED use. He also, selflessly deigned to link me to the CP Steroid article. Oh yeah, he's English.
Photo via Esther Lin
Note: MMAjunkie speculated that Bonnar/Nickels would be at Ultimate Fight Night 10 (June 12, 2007) based on Nickels proclamation of "in 5 weeks" after Ring of Fire event. However, the fight wouldn't take place for four weeks after that