Fertitta on funding $45k per fight enhanced drug testing

Friday, May 02, 2014

Fans reacted with disbelief when word came out that enhanced, out-of-competition testing comes to about $45,000 per fight.

So did ZUFFA CEO Lorenzo Fertitta.

“I’ll be honest, when they told me $45,000, I thought, like, they misspoke,” Fertitta told MMAJunkie's  Steven Marrocco. Fertitta noted that the costs are prohibitive to do them for each of the 500 fighters under contract, multiple times per year.

The costs are prohibitive for Athletic Commissions as well. The $45,000 for one fight is about 10% of the entire yearly budget for the Nevada State Athletic Commission. A single UFC card would break the years' budget.

Fertitta has made a commitment to underwrite the costs where Athletic Commissions think it is merited, but are unable to foot the bill. So far they have paid for Travis Browne vs. Josh Barnett at UFC 168, and Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira at UFC 172. They will be paying for Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Ellenberger at UFC 173.

The testing that government athletic commissions do varies enormously from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but it is fairly typical to do day-of urine testing for PEDs and recreational drugs for title fights, and at random for several other fighters on the card. When a fighter had previously tested for PEDs, the top commissions try to do a non-fight day test. The testing is generally done on urine, and is not completely comprehensive.

By contrast, the enhanced testing involves flying a testing professional to the athlete multiple times (Jones for example said he was tested four times). Both blood and urine samples are taken. And the samples are subjected to much closer scrutiny at a WADA-accredited lab in Utah, looking for for example HGH and synthetic testosterone.

Fertitta details the difficulties.

“We’re developing this as we go along, and it’s not something where we’re going to have all the answers right away on this,” said Fertitta. “The sport has made tremendous strides over the last 12 to 24 months, as far as drug testing, and I’ll argue beyond any other sport – I don’t know any other sports that are doing enhanced drug testing and have the commitment that we’re giving.”

“We said we would do it, and we’re going to do it. Now we’re going to continue to work with them to see if there’s maybe a way to get a deal where we’re doing so many of them that the cost will come down or becomes a little bit more cost-effective.”

“I think we’re going to have to get smart about how we deal with it. Obviously, for some of the bigger fights, you’re going to do the enhanced drug testing no matter what it costs. I think for some of the other fights, we’re going to have to be smart.

“Maybe, I’m just throwing this out, maybe it’s kind of half an enhanced drug test. I don’t know. But we need to come to some resolution that accomplishes our goal of ridding the sport of performance-enhancing drugs and at the same time being somewhat reasonable from a cost standpoint. We may have to go to some states and get some additional funding, but this is all very new.”

“The budgetary constraints that these states have just trying to fund education, I don’t think we’re going to be on the list for drug testing in MMA or boxing.

“Ultimately, it’s going to fall on the shoulders of the promoters as it is today. So the question becomes, all the taxes that are paid, and I’m sure it may vary state by state, but in Nevada, all the taxes that are paid to the commission don’t necessarily go to the commission. They go to the general fund of the state, so there’s no allocation back to the commission even though the commission generates a substantial amount of revenue.

“So the longer term items we’re going to have to work through and try to figure out, if there’s a way to maintain those taxes that are paid, at least to help maintain the sport and run the sport, but that’s down the road. For now, we’re paying for it.”

“Everything seems to be geared toward us, which is fine, we’re the leader in the industry. We’ll take the leadership role, and we’re going to do whatever we can to rid the sport of these issues.”

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