Chris Leben became the first high-profile fighter suspended by the Ultimate Fighting Championships for failing a drug test, when results came back positive on Monday for the steroid Stanazolol in a test administered after his three-round loss to Michael Bisping on Oct. 18 in Birmingham, England.
The UFC suspended Leben for nine months and fined him one-third of his undisclosed fight purse.
Several UFC fighters, including champions like Tim Sylvia, Sean Sherk and Josh Barnett, had been suspended and forced to relinquish their championships after positive tests administered by both the Nevada and California State Athletic Commissions.
Because UFC events held in the United Kingdom are not under the auspices of a commission, the UFC's vice president of regulatory affairs, Marc Ratner, who for years headed the Nevada commission, performs many of the duties normally associated with an athletic commission for those events.
"I am obviously disappointed with Chris, who has made great strides getting his life back on track," said UFC president Dana White. "To his credit, he has taken responsibility for his actions and is accepting the punishment that has been handed down. But as always, the UFC puts the safety of its athletes first and foremost, and we won't tolerate anyone using performance enhancing drugs in our organization."
"I've really done everything I can to turn my life around," said Leben.
"And this is a huge setback for me. But it's something I will have to deal with. During my time off from fighting, I want to speak to kids about the dangers of using performance enhancing agents and let them know it just doesn't get you ahead in life. Of course, this is a hard hit for me monetarily, but more so this is embarrassing for me and for all my fans."
UFC tested all 22 fighters at UFC 89 both before and after their matches.
White said that Leben admitted to him using the drug, also known as Winstrol V, but believed it had enough time to clear his system. Leben, 18-5, one of the company's most well-known fighters stemming from his appearance on the first season of Ultimate Fighter, said he used the drug shortly after his win over Alessio Sakara in March. While usually clearing your system in about three weeks, Stanazolol can show up in tests for several months.
ESPN planning MMA reality show?
Several sources within mixed martial arts have confirmed that the ESPN corporate family of networks is making moves to get into the sport.
The plans appear to involve a reality show that would be taped during the spring, looking at using featherweight, lightweight and middleweight fighters. No other details of the show are available, other then a loose idea of modeling it after "The Contender," the boxing show the network recently dropped.
According to an ESPN spokesman, the potential show would air on Spanish-language ESPN Deportes.
This would make as many as four different MMA reality shows on the drawing board for next season. Affliction and M-1 Global have announced plans for a heavyweight reality show taped in St. Petersburg, Russia, called "Fighting Fedor." World Extreme Cage Fighting has also talked of doing a reality show on the Versus network, to give the organization more of a presence on the station between live fight cards.
ESPN is said to be interested in several fighters who were with the recently folded Elite XC. But all those fighters are still on hold, as the organization has not released fighters from their contracts. For legal reasons, EXC recently sent several fighters a form letter stating the company was planning shows in 2009.
Industry sources have stated ESPN has offered name fighters both signing bonuses and per-fight guarantees that would be above industry standards for fighters of their caliber.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship pays The Ultimate Fighter reality show participants a relatively small weekly amount during filming and locks all fighters up for potential long-term deals, generally at $8,000 to show and $8,000 more to win, except for the winners of the competition, who get significantly better deals.
In an official statement, ESPN's communications department stated "ESPN is not developing any MMA programming on our English-language networks. However, ESPN Deportes is in the early development stages of an MMA program."
- Chris Leben