A drug testing-free world; best AC brawls

June, 18, 2012
6/18/12
12:48
PM ET
Gross By Josh Gross
ESPN.com
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Rich FranklinScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesRich Franklin is the latest fighter to admit he's considering testosterone replacement therapy.
Rich Franklin said recently he'll consider testosterone replacement therapy because, at the age of 37, his hormone levels aren't what they once where.

Stop the presses. This is called getting old, and it's among the biggest reasons TRT comes off as a farcical medical treatment for athletes.

But have you ever wondered what the fight world would be like if mixed martial artists like Franklin didn't hesitate to take substances likely to help them in their pursuits? Think of it. No drug testing. All problems solved. Bye-bye bad headlines and missed fights. What a world!

On its face this sounds preposterous, though that hasn't stopped some people from arguing it's the way to go. Where would you peg usage rates if fighters were essentially allowed to dope for lack of deterrents? We're still talking illegal drugs, just no testing. How would that tug at the moral fiber of fighters who, under today's testing requirements, have thus far remained PED-free?

I'm thinking, despite known repercussions, use would be off the charts. Maybe you'll have some guys who won't on principle -- yes, principle -- but I wouldn't assume many. Junior dos Santos? The way he's addressed PEDs, the guy is either a shining beacon or total hypocrite. We have no reason to suspect the latter, yet in a test-free environment, would temptation prove too much?

Tito Ortiz made the claim recently that he would still be champion were it not for multiple surgeries that plagued his career. What if a substance banned under current regulations/law could have a) prevented his ailments or b) helped repair them quickly so he could fight at full strength? Wouldn't it be worth allowing him to use unencumbered? Let the chips fall where they may over time, but in the moment, if it kept him fighting, and others were free to use if they wanted, what could be so bad about that?

Hey, I'm glad testing exists. I hate that it needs to, but the fact that it's there -- as disjointed and inconsistent as the practice is worldwide -- gives hope that the sport won't just drown in drugs.

Why does it matter?

What it comes down to, I think, is this: I want to see the best fighters in the world compete. And I want to knowing their accomplishments aren't insured by a steady baseline of synthetic testosterone. Yes, even if that means they're more likely to stave off injury and fight more often over a longer period of time. (Though use could have the exact opposite effect, as penalties, such as weakened tendons, make injury more likely.)

Based on past conversations, I'm aware many fans don't care. They'd be fine if regulators walked away from testing programs and Zuffa washed its hands of PED interests. A virtual free-for-all makes them salivate.

I'll make just one request. If this ever happens (it won't), can we at least get a tale-of-the-tape that includes "drugs used" next to height, weight and reach? That could be fun for a little while.

Atlantic City, hello

Rizzo-CoutureSusumu Nagao/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa/Getty ImagesPedro Rizzo, facing, and Randy Couture took turns pummeling one another on May 4, 2001, in Atlantic City.

For the first time in five years, the UFC returns to Atlantic City this weekend, featuring two of the promotion's best lightweights, Gray Maynard and Clay Guida.

The UFC has a tradition of holding memorable events by the Jersey shore (which hosted the company's first regulated event prior to Zuffa entering the equation in 2001), and Maynard-Guida looks well suited to join an impressive list of fights.

In descending order, these are my favorite A.C. bouts:

8. Rich Franklin mauls Evan Tanner to win the UFC middleweight title. This was ugly. Though Tanner knocked Franklin down with a right hand in the opening round, he spent the rest of the fight being brutalized to the face, rendering the him nearly unrecognizable by the time a ringside physician stopped the contest.

7. Shonie Carter spins his way past Matt Serra. As you'll soon realize, UFC 31 is one of my favorite events ever. Carter-Serra produced a spinning backfist finish that, at the time, was rare and stunning. Down on the cards late in the fight, Carter faked a kick, spun through with his arms, and connected with a glancing shot that dropped Serra to the canvas for good.

6. Matt Hughes teaches youngster Georges St. Pierre a lesson. Ten months after losing the UFC welterweight title to B.J. Penn in 2004, Hughes regained the strap against a talented French Canadian kid who'd go on to do big things. Hughes treated GSP appropriately before locking in a perfectly setup armbar from the top that brought a tap at 4:59 of Round 1. St. Pierre credits lessons learned in this fight for his subsequent championship run.

5. Jens Pulver claims first UFC title of Zuffa era. Technically this was for the bantamweight title at the time, though we now know 155 pounds to be the domain of lightweights. The fight, a majority decision favoring Pulver over Caol Uno, was extremely close and well contested.

4. Tito Ortiz pummels Evan Tanner. Ortiz never appeared more dangerous than this frightening slam that rendered Tanner unconscious and injured. The impact of Ortiz lifting then driving Tanner to the floor still stands as among the UFC's most violent moments.

3. Randy Couture returns, wins back belt. After winning and relinquishing the UFC heavyweight title against Maurice Smith in 1997, Couture returned to the promotion three years later for its regulated debut in New Jersey. Couture handled fellow wrestler Kevin Randleman in an exciting contest that ended with punches late in Round 3.

2. Carlos Newton stuns Pat Miletich. Trying for his sixth UFC title defense, Miletich failed when he made the mistake of sticking his head where it didn't belong, prompting nice guy Newton to squeeze as hard as he could when he wrapped Miletich in an old-school playground choke. The result opened the door for Matt Hughes, a Miletich student, to fight for the belt.

1. Heavyweight war of attrition. Among my favorite fights of all time, Randy Couture and Pedro Rizzo produced a wild heavyweight title fight at UFC 31. Rizzo dominated Couture in the opening round, nearly finishing the American within the first five minutes. Couture returned the favor in the second, pounding on Rizzo for a full round. They were understandably slower the next 15 minutes, yet this is one of the great battles in MMA history.

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