MMA Analysis: Dana White, Nate Marquardt and Low Testosterone

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When Dana White took to a video posted on his Twitter feed Saturday evening to announce that perennial UFC middleweight contender Nate Marquardt had been fired from the promotion due to failure to be medically cleared by the Pennsylvania athletic commission. However, citing strict state laws, neither White nor the PSAC were at liberty to discuss the reason for Marquardt’s sudden termination.  This, predictably, was met with widespread speculation from fans and media as Marquardt and his team remained silent on what exactly was the cause of these failed medicals.

Well, Marquardt and his team finally talked about what went down prior to Sunday’s UFC on Versus 4 that caused his release from the sport.  The culprit?  You guessed it, the currently en vogue excuse of low testosterone therapy.  Marquardt spoke at length on the subject this afternoon with MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour.

According to Marquardt, he began feeling sluggish back in August 2010 and that coupled with memory loss and irritability led him to see his physician.  There, according to Marquardt, it was diagnosed that he suffered from low testosterone and was placed on hormone replacement therapy (HRT).  Marquardt was under this treatment when he fought Dan Miller in New Jersey back in March where he received a medical exception for the use of HRT.  In accordance with the New Jersey athletic commission’s mandate, Marquardt was to go off this treatment for eight weeks in order for them to evaluate his testosterone levels. 

Here is where Marquardt messes up.

During that eight week abstinence from his HRT, Marquardt agreed to fight Rick Story in what would have been last Sunday’s main event for UFC on Versus 4.  Because he was off treatment for eight weeks Marquardt says his testosterone levels began to dip low.  He then sought the advice of his doctor who injected him with a shot of testosterone with the hope of the levels dropping to an acceptable level by weigh-ins.  This turned out to be an ill-conceived plan. 

Granted, Marquardt’s levels did drop, just not low enough.  When doing his medicals with the state of Pennsylvania it became evident that his levels were still above the acceptable limits and as a result Marquardt would not be granted a license.  This effectively upheaved the long-promoted main event between himself and Story and in sheer anger and disgust, UFC president Dana White fired Marquardt on the spot.  Marquardt and his team contend that they tried in earnest to notify and work with the PSAC in order to be granted the same exemption that New Jersey gave but this was to no avail. 

Yeah, it’s a pretty messed up situation and for the most part Marquardt and his team contend that they were above board and offered full disclosure to the state athletic commission and the UFC.  Where they messed up was trying to play the odds by hoping that a brief shot of testosterone would balance out his levels by the time the fight rolled around. 

The cynical side of me wants to question how a professional athlete in the absolute peak of physical fitness has testosterone so low he requires HRT.  On paper it doesn’t make sense and following the “cluster-F” caused by Chael Sonnen for the exact same thing one has to take Marquardt’s explanations with a grain of salt.  When your chose to make professional fighting your livelihood why wouldn’t you make absolutely sure that you are in complete compliance with whatever regulatory body is overseeing your next fight.  Especially, in light of the public fallout surrounding Sonnen and his inconsistencies with the same hormone treatment.  One would think that you would make sure without a shadow of a doubt that your treatment was above board. 

I don’t know why, in this current climate of sports and PEDs, fighters like Marquardt and Sonnen would risk their careers with HRT.  If both legitimately suffer from low testosterone levels, and their aliments may indeed be valid, they certainly are not doing themselves any favors by failing to be proactive in making sure the various athletic commissions and the UFC are fully disclosed of this treatment.  If I’m a professional fighter and I know that there is an almost certain chance that I am going to be tested for performance enhancing drugs you had better believe I would have a team of doctors and corresponding paperwork to back up any claim that I have for requiring HRT.  Failing to do so only casts you in a guilty light and undermines any credibility in your argument. 

The key word in professional prizefighter is the “professional” designation.  Marquardt’s mishandling of this situation reeks of amateurism and that is why he now finds himself outside of the warm embrace of the UFC.