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BE Mailbag: Percentage of fighters on PEDs, MMA pioneers in the modern era, UFC favoritism?

Bloody Elbow’s managing editor, Anton Tabuena answers reader questions.

Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

The Bloody Elbow Mailbag is back, and from several of our reader questions, I’m discussing various topics such as performance enhancing drugs, MMA writing, and MMA pioneers competing in this modern age.

madmikethb79: Is putting Lawler up against the #1 contender after his loss to Askren definitive proof that company preference trumps sporting merit?

Oh, more often than not, company preference definitely trumps sporting merit in the UFC. I just don’t think Lawler vs Woodley 2 is the best example that shows it.

You can argue that after that one-sided loss to Usman, Tyron Woodley isn’t really the number one contender right now and will likely need at least one win before receiving a title shot. Lawler and Woodley are both ranked contenders coming off defeats, and they have history. Even if I’m not the biggest fan of this rematch, it still seems like a normal, justifiable booking.

Lesnar’s title shot, and Greg Hardy’s co-main event slots on the other hand...

IFLWorld Grand Prix Weigh In Photo by Ross Dettman/Getty Images for IFL

If you could pick one early pioneer of MMA, and have him or her experience their career now, who do you think would show the most improvement?

I think that’s UFC 7 tournament winner Marco Ruas. He already had good Muay Thai and good grappling, showing a well rounded game that was way ahead of his time. With the newer techniques and training methods — plus not having to fight massive heavyweights anymore — I feel like he would have had the athleticism and the ability to really learn and showcase a legitimately complete and modern MMA game.

I feel like majority of the fighters from that era would have problems adapting and learning other techniques the same way the some of the more rigid and one-dimensional fighters of today struggle to round out their game. (Think heavyweight brawlers trying to learn BJJ, or life long grapplers like Jake Shields still being a very awkward striker)

Foreign Object: What MMA PPV/event made you question why you cover MMA? What fight made you glad you did cover it?

I love covering MMA, but there are a lot of things that I hate about the sport too — like all those times I see things about bigotry, domestic or sexual abuse, or when major stars and personalities cling on to truly awful and terrible people. I’ve also always loved watching MMA for the styles and evolution of technique rather than just violence or blood, but learning more about CTE and brain trauma is always a sobering moment for me as well.

There are countless occasions when fighters are screwed over, or when rules or basic decency are ignored for the sake of profit, so I’d rather not create a never ending list for those. There are also great stories and dramatic moments that remind me of why I’ve always loved MMA though, so here’s a few:

  • Comeback stories: Like when older, former title holders like GSP and Cruz had incredibly long layoffs to become champion again. MMA evolves so quickly and not only did they defy ring rust and father time, they also showed how far ahead of the evolutionary curve they were from when they left.
  • Upsets and shocking finishes: Like Rose beating Joanna, Diaz submitting McGregor on short notice, Yair’s hail Mary up elbow, and Cejudo knocking out TJ in seconds.
  • FOTY-type madness: Like Rory MacDonald vs Robbie Lawler, Sonnen vs Silva, and more recently, Adesanya digging deep against Gastelum.
UFC Fight Night Cejudo v Dillashaw Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

gillentheniceguy: How much credence do you give to other fighters claiming that a large proportion of the UFC’s fighters are using PEDs? We all remember Diaz’s classic quote, but I’m talking about, say, Robert Whittaker mentioning on a podcast that up to 50% of fighters are on PEDs.

It’s obviously hard to give an accurate percentage, but yes, I do believe that a good chunk of fighters take various banned substances. From boat loads of supplements that may have certain ingredients that aren’t allowed, to those who actually have a more sophisticated and scientific approach to doping, people will do and take things that give them an edge. It’s sad, but it’s just the nature of the beast.

Fighters have a very short window to get and win big fights, climb the ranks, gain a sizable following and/or become champion — and getting all that doesn’t guarantee you get paid either. With the pay structure in MMA, these fighters will lose half their money if they can’t win, and they risk being cut from the promotion altogether as well.

It’s much much worse in the wild west that is the regional MMA (and BJJ) scene, but even in the USADA-policed UFC, people are still always going to find ways to cheat the system. 600 UFC fighters scattered around the globe won’t be tested the same way as other Olympic sports, but even those athletes find a way to skirt their tests.

The longer PED suspensions may deter some fighters, but it’s not hard to see that for many, it can be an easy choice to just “risk” it. Majority of those who enter the UFC just wash out anyway, and there’s still just way too much upside and incentive to cheat and get an edge as they look to join the rare few who not only stick around, but change their lives forever.

I obviously don’t condone this rationale, but it’s really not farfetched to believe that many fighters — yes, maybe even your favorites — cheat.

Christopher Muldong: How did Bloody Elbow get “The Happy Warrior” Roxanne Modaferri to write for you guys? Her articles have been great so far.

I’ve always loved the work that a fighter and talented writer like Josh Samman used to bring to BE before, and he definitely inspired me to write about my personal experiences as well. While I didn’t really want any of that replicated or replaced, I was always interested in finding someone who could properly share their own story and their own perspective in fighting as well.

I don’t really handle staffing, but after reading one of Roxy’s recent posts on her blog, I contacted her to ask if she’s willing to write something like that for BE. She was interested, so I put her in contact with Kid Nate, and the rest is history.

Roxy’s unique personality always shines through in her writing, and being willing to open up and take the readers along in her path makes me very proud to have her work featured on BE.

If you want to ask anything and have them featured on our next column, you can tweet me @antontabuena using the hashtag #BEmailbag, or simply comment on our next fanpost calling for questions.

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