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Conor McGregor is back in the USADA testing pool, but it might not matter as UFC plans to drop USADA

UFC superstar Conor McGregor recently announced that he had re-entered the USADA testing pool, meaning he would be eligible to return to action after the drug testing agency’s six-month testing period. On Wednesday afternoon, it became clear that McGregor may not need to wait that long as USADA announced their contract with the UFC would end on Dec. 31, 2023.

A statement from USADA, first posted by MMA reporter Aaron Bronsteter, detailed that the situation surrounding McGregor was partially responsible for a breakdown between themselves and the UFC.

“We can confirm that Conor McGregor has re-entered the USADA testing pool as of Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023,” the statement read. “We have been clear and firm with the UFC that there should be no exception given by the UFC for McGregor to fight until he has returned two negative tests and been in the pool for at least six months. The rules also allow USADA to keep someone in the testing pool longer before competing based on their declarations upon entry in the pool and testing results.

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“Unfortunately, we do not currently know whether the UFC will ultimately honor the six-month or longer requirement because, as of Jan. 1, 2024, USADA will no longer be involved with the UFC Anti-Doping Program. Despite a positive and productive meeting about a contract renewal in May 2023, the UFC did an about-face and informed USADA on Monday, Oct. 9, that it was going in a different direction.”

After expressing their disappointment for the impact on fighter safety and fairness that will result from the dissolution of the partnership, USADA further dug in with the implication that getting McGregor back in the Octagon sooner than the required testing period was at the heart of the UFC’s change of heart.

“The relationship between USADA and UFC became untenable given the statements made by UFC leaders and others questioning USADA’s principled stance that McGregor not be allowed to fight without being in the testing pool for at least six months,” USADA’s statement said.  One UFC commentator echoed this, recently declaring that USADA should not oversee the UFC program since we held firm to the six-month rule involving McGregor, and since we do not allow fighters without an approved medical basis to use performance-enhancing drugs like experimental, unapproved peptides or testosterone for healing or injuries simply to get back in the Octagon.”

In November 2022, McGregor suggested he could be back in the UFC in early 2023 despite not being in the USADA testing pool, saying he just needed to complete two tests and would be good to go.

UFC president Dana White was also dismissive of USADA’s involvement in a McGregor return when asked by Bronsteter about the situation in July, suggesting that McGregor could have potentially fought before the end of 2023 despite that being impossible under USADA’s rules.

“We’ll see how that plays out,” White said at the time. “[USADA are] saying that now. But we don’t — who knows? I don’t talk about s— until s— happens, you know what I mean? To sit here and think hypothetically how a million different things could happen — no idea. The Conor thing, who the hell knows how that’s gonna play out? Who cares what USADA says? We’ll see what happens when it happens.”

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