YANGON, Myanmar – For the third time in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world’s premier mixed martial arts (MMA) organization had to cancel an event.
The UFC’s second trip to the Philippines on October 15 was nixed after having difficulties finding a short-notice opponent for Ricardo Lamas, who was supposed to headline the fight card against MMA legend BJ Penn.
Penn, who was preparing for his first fight since calling it a career in July 2014, pulled out of the 5-round featherweight clash with Lamas due to a rib injury.
Afterwards, MMA writer Jeremy Botter floated the rumor that the event was cancelled due to drug testing issues involving not just the athletes, but others involved with the promotion.
The government was going to drug test ALL UFC folks – not just fighters, but staff/production/etc. https://t.co/VysjRVASgN— Jeremy Botter (@jeremybotter) October 6, 2016
Any failures for ANYTHING and the government would seize their passports. So you can see why it was “rescheduled”. https://t.co/VysjRVASgN— Jeremy Botter (@jeremybotter) October 6, 2016
A UFC representative downplayed the rumor, stressing that the reason for the cancellation is Penn’s sudden pullout due to his injury. The United States Anti-Doping Agency serves as the organization’s arm to oversee its anti-doping program, which subjects all of its fighters to random performance-enhancing drug testing.
Games and Amusements Board (GAB), the body in charge of implementing rules and regulations governing all professional sports in the country, likewise shot down the claim of having issues in pre-fight drug testing but did not address claims that non-combatants would likewise be tested.
“We have received official communication from Mr. David Lewis of the UFC informing us that the event will have to be re-scheduled due to an injury sustained by BJ Penn. We respect this decision of the organizers and will only require them to ensure the reimbursement of patrons who may have already purchased their tickets,” GAB chairman Abraham Mitra said in a statement.
“We are equally saddened by the rumors that the cause of the cancellation is the drug testing procedure that GAB requires of all professional athletes. This procedure has been in place through the years for no other purpose than to ensure the safety of unarmed combatants and to preserve the integrity of professional sports in the country,” he added.
Mitra branded the report as “irresponsible”, arguing that it puts Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in a bad light due to his rampant war on crime.
“The insinuations dragging the country’s anti-drugs campaign into this issue are unfair, irresponsible and counter-productive. Third parties should not take this unfortunate cancellation to take a stab at our President’s efforts to cleanse our country of illegal drugs,” he said.
More than 3,000 alleged drug users and dealers have been killed since July 1 – either in vigilante-style killings or police operations.
Duterte’s deadly war on crime has drawn widespread condemnation and criticism from local political figures and the international community.
The UFC has cancelled events on two prior occasions. UFC 151 was scrapped in September 2012 after Dan Henderson withdrew from his title tilt with then-light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones, who infamously declined to take a short-notice bout against Chael Sonnen.
Meanwhile, UFC 176 in August 2014 was cancelled when then-featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo pulled out of his rematch versus Chad Mendes a month before the actual fight due to a neck injury.
Fighters on the second UFC card in the Philippines will receive their respective fight purses and will be rebooked at the promotion’s future events.
Fans who have purchased tickets to the UFC Fight Night Manila 2 can seek refunds starting Friday, October 7. – Rappler.com
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