The Rear Naked Column 07.01.11: Ultimate Double Standards
Posted by Samer Kadi on 07.01.2011
In one of the biggest stories of the year, Nate Marquardt has been released from the UFC after failing to past his pre-fight medicals! But is it a double standard when compared to the Chael Sonnen saga? 411’s Samer Kadi takes a look!
Following fourteen fights in the world's premier Mixed Martial Arts organization, Nate Marquardt UFC's career came to an abrupt and unceremonious end. After a largely successful run at middleweight where he fought his way to a shot at the sport's ultimate prize, Marquardt made a surprisingly bold decision which saw him attempt to drop down in weight and compete in the welterweight division.
After his initially scheduled opponent, Anthony Johnson, pulled out of what was meant to be Marquardt's welterweight debut, "Rumble" was replaced by one of the division's fastest rising fighters in Rick Story. The bout was set to headline the UFC's fourth venture on Versus, and the stakes were huge for both fighters. In a division where the champion has toppled every contender in sight, Marquardt was seen as a much-needed breath of fresh air, regardless of the teammate headache that may have arose had he won his way to a shot at St-Pierre. None of that would end up mattering however, as weigh-in day would prove to be Marquardt's most arduous yet. Dehydration was the last thing on his mind, as "The Great" received a harder 1-2 combo than anything Story might have delivered inside the Octagon.
Amidst mysterious circumstances, it was announced that Marquardt failed to meet the athletic commission's medical requirements. This preceded Dana White's knockout blow, as he announced that the former King of Pancrase would "never fight in the UFC again."
Marquardt subsequently appeared on Ariel Helwani's "MMA hour" and seemingly "came clean." According to Marquardt and his manager, Lex McMahon, the one time middleweight top contender has been on hormone replacement therapy since August of 2010, and that both the UFC and the athletic commission were fully aware of that fact. Moreover, Marquardt claims to have informed the New Jersey State Athletic Commission of his condition before his fight with Dan Miller at UFC 128 back in March.
This article will not attempt to highlight Marquardt's negligence – provided every detail of his story is true – by deciding to get injected with testosterone shortly before his fight with Story. Nor will it try to reveal the multiple flaws in the current system, which by allowing fighters to receive hormone replacement therapy, is essentially providing them with a window to swim around the rules. It will also not discuss the incompetence of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission, which curiously failed to inform Marquardt's UFC 128 adversary, Dan Miller, of his opponent's condition. These issues all require a column of their own, and will perhaps be dealt with on another day when more details inevitably surface.
Instead, the focal point will be Marquardt's firing, which, while not exactly harsh, is inconsistent with the UFC's previous handlings of such situations. If you're an MMA fan with no real medical knowledge (aren't we all?), you were likely familiarized with "hormone replacement therapy" by none other than Chael Sonnen. This was the excuse used by Sonnen following his failed post-fight drug test after his epic battle with Anderson Silva, where he came within two minutes of capturing the UFC middleweight title.
Since then, Sonnen's life turned into a bigger rollercoaster ride than his heartbreaking loss to "The Spider." After originally being suspended until September 2011, Sonnen appealed the ruling on the grounds that he was receiving testosterone injections due to a medical condition called hypogonadism. A money laundering charge, lying under oath, and imaginary conversations with Keith Kizer later, and Sonnen's career had hit rock bottom. For UFC president Dana White, this constituted "going through a rough time." Nate Marquardt's actions on the other hand, were deemed "disgusting" by the UFC president.
Cheating, felony charges and lies apparently pale in comparison to negligence. Even if Marquardt's entire story was nothing more than a ruse (which remains a distinct possibility), it is no different than Thiago Silva providing a non-human sample for his drug test, and it certainly is no worse than the string of embarrassing situations Chael Sonnen put himself in. However, neither Sonnen nor Silva caused a UFC main event to fall apart twenty-four hours before it was scheduled to unfold, and that, in all likelihood, is the source of White's "disgust."
Make no doubt about it, White's frustration and anger are largely justified, and Marquardt needs to suffer the consequences as a result. However, it is not too much to ask for said consequences to be consistent. Either all failed drug tests should result in an immediate release from the UFC, which for all intents and purposes, would be beyond reproach, or Dana needs to keep his emotions in check, carefully assess the situation, and then make the call accordingly. Historically, White and the UFC have maintained that the suspension imposed by the athletic commission is punishing enough, and that they don't take further actions themselves because fighters need to make a living.
On many levels, this is admirable. Fighters are often tempted to resort to illegal methods due to injuries sustained in training camps. While this by no means exempts them from responsibility, it does at least justify – albeit unconvincingly – their attempts to cheat. Denying a fighter the chance to make a living beyond the enforced penalty might be harsh by some people's standards, and White understandably seems to fall in that category. And yet, the moment something affects the UFC's business, that approach gets thrown out the window. This wouldn't be nearly as bad if White simply brings up Marquardt testing positive for steroids in 2005 in order to justify his release. After all, a simple case of negligence or not, this is Marquardt's second strike.
The ironic thing when attempting to draw a Marquardt/Sonnen comparison is that in the case of the latter, the damage was two minutes away from being far worse. Had Sonnen's submission defense not decided to rear its ugly head again, and had he prevented Anderson Silva from gaining that crucial wrist control in the fifth round of their now infamous bout, the newly crowned UFC champion would have immediately failed a drug test afterwards. News becomes far juicier – no pun intended – when it reads "UFC champion fails a drug test" rather than "UFC fighter." And, although Sonnen would have been stripped of his title, "former UFC champion charged for money laundering" isn't exactly a headline the Zuffa brass would be flattered to see. Never mind the fact that Sonnen would have effectively killed off the already struggling middleweight division. Anderson Silva would lose a lot of his appeal if he maintains his undefeated streak due to an overturned result, and capturing a vacant title hardly helps.
The message is clear: Be a loud mouth, help us sell PPV's, make people care about you, and we'll hang on to you and even offer you a spot as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter as a reward (and even if you screw that up, it's fine), no matter how badly you drag yourself through the mud, as long as it happens after making us money. Of course, Sonnen is more valuable to the company than Marquardt is, and thus gets an extra dose of leeway. And while it is unfair to ask the UFC to hand him out his walking papers, asking them to refrain from handing Marquardt his own, is somewhat reasonable.
EDIT: The article was submitted before Dana White's recent comments in which he brought up Marquardt's failed drug test in 2005. Though his argument in regards to the Chael/Marquardt comparision is simply unconvincing to say the least.
REMINDER: Be sure to check out the latest edition of the 411 Ground and Pound radio show. Mark Radulich was doing his usual hosting duties and was joined by Scott Kuczkowski, Jeffrey Harris and yours truly to review preview UFC 132.