Earlier this month, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta publicly stated that the promotion would assist athletic commissions in implementing random drug testing. That drive has begun with UFC 173 participants Robbie Lawler and Jake Ellenberger chosen for enhanced testing ahead of their May 24 bout.
The blood and urine testing program, which can cost upwards of $40,000 per fight, was first reported by ESPN.com and confirmed to FOX Sports by Nevada Athletic Commission chairman Francisco Aguilar.
Lawler and Ellenberger submitted to their first tests last weekend while in Baltimore to attend UFC 172. While the pair are not the featured headliners of the UFC 173 bout in Las Vegas, Aguilar said they were chosen to put mixed martial artists on notice that anyone on a card could be tested.
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"We wanted to mix things up to let other fighters know that this isn’t just a main event program," he said. "This is a program that will be focused on potentially every card."
The UFC has also assisted other states in drug testing efforts. Over the last several weeks, the promotion partnered with the Maryland State Athletic Commission in enhanced drug testing for the UFC 172 main event between light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira.
According to Aguilar and other commission leaders, the UFC’s only role is paying the tab.
Their willingness to assist in the anti-PED effort has been "absolutely" surprising, Aguilar said. The UFC was the first to do it at last year’s UFC 168, when Travis Browne and Josh Barnett were tested. Earlier this year, Manny Pacquaio and Tim Bradley also underwent the program. Currently, Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana are undergoing enhanced testing through the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The Lawler-Ellenberger testing will include an elevated level of sensitivity with Carbon Isotope Ratio testing, which determines the presence of synthetic testosterone. The Browne-Barnett program did not include CIR testing.
Until now, most commission drug testing has occurred either on weigh-in day or fight night and included only a urine screen.
"This is an evolving process," Aguilar said. "We have to get better at it and we will get better at it, and we’ll become more efficient."