The UFC is set to take the biggest step in it's fight against drugs cheats as it is aiming to move to unannounced, year-round drugs tests.
In an interview with ESPN.com, the UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Brett Ratner, revealed that it's in talks with four or five different drugs testing agencies to have the testing in place by the end of the year.
The news comes on the back of one of the biggest calls from fans, critics and fighters to improve testing conditions, after it's been heavily rumoured that a lot more than reported fighters are on performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Aiming to start testing in the new year
"Unannounced blood and urine is going to happen, hopefully in the next three or four months. When you're talking about 500 fighters, there are a lot of logistics. Having fighters in foreign countries makes it tougher, but we're coming up with a plan and (agencies) are making proposals to us in the next two week" Ratner told ESPN.com.
If true, it's a massive step in the right direction for cleaning up the sport, as it has faced every growing scrutiny for leaving testing in the hands of athletics commissions.
The lack of externally controlled drugs testing has even been linked to the retirement of several fighters, including former UFC Welterweight champion, Georges St-Pierre.
While the UFC has worked with athletic commissions this year to provide blood tests during fight week and urine tests on fight nights, such programs cost around $40,000 - money the commissions don't have.
With the UFC growing and expanding all the time, and as such running more and more events, it will likely work out better for them by committing to organisations like the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) or the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA).
"The UFC will be randomly testing a percentage of fighters," Ratner said. "When we decide on this regiment, it's going to be a big cost but it's well worth it when we do these out-of-competition tests."
A necessary evil
Although it will come with a hefty fee, it will have to happen sooner rather than later, as the enhanced programs this year have been catching more and more fighters out including big names like Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen.
Both fighters have fought for titles in recent years and while it's unknown if they were doping at the time of those fights, if they had managed to win the titles or were champions still, it would shine an even darker light on the legitimacy of the UFC than they already have.
It's not just St-Pierre who has requested harsher tests - UFC Light Heavyweight champ, Jon Jones requested more thorough testing ahead of his clash with Glover Teixeira earlier on this year as well.
Stopping the cheats is one of the essential steps that the UFC must overcome in order to have MMA the next step into the mainstream sporting world and without it, it will just be giving more ammunition for it's critics.
Whether they like it or not, the UFC is the figurehead promotion of UFC in the western world and because of that, it has to set the right example to it's younger, smaller siblings, so that they react properly too.
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