- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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Last week, Kennedy (18-4) wrote on Twitter he would not compete again unless he and his future opponents underwent random blood testing during training camp.
Kennedy asked the UFC to book his next fight in Nevada so that it would be under the jurisdiction of the state's athletic commission, which twice this year has implemented an enhanced testing program for UFC bouts.
Kennedy, 34, has made it clear he is willing to pay for his half of the program, which he has been told could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $35,000. The previous time Kennedy fought in Las Vegas, in July 2013, he earned a $90,000 purse.
“Whatever it takes to ensure we are moving toward having a clean sport, which we are nowhere near right now,” Kennedy told ESPN.com. “Something has to change.”
Kennedy’s manager, Leo Khorolinsky, told ESPN.com Kennedy wouldn’t go so far as to pull out of the fight should random testing not be implemented, but is optimistic the NSAC would approve the request.
“In no way would he back out of the fight, because he has a contractual obligation,” Khorolinsky said. “What he’s saying is that he’s trying to make a statement. Let’s make this a real campaign and others will start doing it.”
The NSAC program consists of unannounced urine and blood tests taken during a fighter’s camp. It is far more effective than traditional urine tests on fight night.
The NSAC utilized the random tests prior to a welterweight fight between Jake Ellenberger and Robbie Lawler at UFC 173 and a light heavyweight fight between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva, which was eventually canceled, at UFC 175.
On May 24, Silva avoided a random drug test administered by the NSAC, which led to him not receiving a license to fight at UFC 175. Sonnen failed two random tests on May 24 and June 5, which led to an indefinite suspension of his license.
Middleweight contender Vitor Belfort is also facing licensing issues in Nevada after a blood test taken on Feb. 7 showed his testosterone levels were above normal.
After seeing three athletes, all of whom have competed in his weight class, admit to working outside the rules, Kennedy says he had to take stronger individual action.
“They randomly test three dudes and all three fail,” Kennedy said. “All in my weight class. All dudes I could potentially be fighting. I went from just being vocal about drug use, to saying to myself, ‘I have to make a stand about this.’ ”
Whether Kennedy will get his wish is yet to be seen. Even though he is willing to pay for his share, there is no guarantee the NSAC will order it.
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones requested a similar program prior to his title defense against Glover Teixeira at UFC 172, which took place in Baltimore. The Maryland State Athletic Commission approved it and the UFC agreed to cover the costs.
Similarly, the UFC has picked up costs for both enhanced programs in Nevada. The NSAC is committed to randomly testing at least one bout on every major UFC card, but for obvious reasons, won’t disclose which fights it will be testing ahead of time.
“Any fighter can request all they want to the promoter,” Robert Bennett, NSAC executive director, said. “We appreciate any athlete who wants more testing, but we are certainly not going to reveal who, when and where we’ll be testing.
“The less said about who we will test, the more effective the program. The UFC has been very supportive of our efforts so far.”
For the record, Romero has never failed a drug test.
The UFC has taken more action against performance-enhancing drugs in 2014 than any other year in company history. The promotion has agreed, for now, to handle costs of the program in Nevada, which can be up to $45,000 per fight.
UFC officials are also tentatively planning to address the issue this month at the annual Association of Boxing Commissions convention in Clearwater Beach, Florida.
Kennedy says he appreciates the UFC’s recent efforts to curb PED use, but still believes his action is necessary to help fix a serious problem in mixed martial arts.
“I’m really impressed in the change in both the climate and the UFC’s perception of it,” Kennedy said. “The UFC is forking over money for testing, so it’s been top-driven, which makes me proud to be in the UFC. They are really the only organization that is doing it and it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
“But the first time [the NSAC] randomly tested people, everybody failed. Imagine what that looks like across 450 athletes. Are we talking 60 or 70 percent? I really believe it’s somewhere in that range of fighters that are using.”
UFC middleweight Tim Kennedy has requested an enhanced, random drug-testing program ahead of the Sept. 27 fight against Yoel Romero at UFC 178 in Las Vegas.