It’s been very curious to see Dana White not spout off on the Alistair Overeem situation ever since he had an elevated testosterone to epitestosterone level after the very first UFC 146 press conference.
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Normally the loquacious White has no problem speaking out on anything and everything, from his perception of the athletic ability of professional soccer players to his nuanced feelings on Bob Arum. For someone to so thoroughly irritate the UFC president to garner his silence is remarkable.
But the few things he’s said have spoken volumes so far. And his pulling of Overeem from the main event of UFC 146 in favor of Frank Mir just days before Overeem’s hearing before the Nevada State Athletic Commission says a lot about the UFC’s opinion on whether or not he’ll end up getting licensed to fight.
White has been furious, of course, as Overeem’s ability to get licensed now looks to be close to nil. With an upcoming meeting with the NSAC looming on Tuesday, and a high-powered attorney in his employ, the chances for Overeem being licensed look dim for many reasons. It’s hard to explain a test that high and the UFC doesn’t have a nuanced testing procedure agreement with the NSAC that will allow him to question the integrity of the exam like Major League Baeball does, as evidenced in the case of Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Outside of Overeem himself I doubt there’s anyone out there who thinks the man will get a license to fight either, and that’s mainly because his past behavior when it comes to drug testing has caused suspicion.
Overeem is at the mercy of the commission and has a recent history of seemingly trying to avoid drug-related tests. It was a miracle he got a conditional license to face Brock Lesnar at the end of 2011, all things considered, and it’ll be curious to see how he tries to explain away his T/E ratio of 14:1 to the NSAC. With the shenanigans involved in his drug testing for the Lesnar fight it appears that he was trying to avoid this exact scenario. His version could very well be the exact truth but it looks bad enough that the UFC is hedging their bet against Overeem being licensed when everything is taken into account.
His removal from the main event is a sign that Zuffa, the UFC’s parent company, most likely thinks he won’t get licensed next week and is trying to prevent the card from falling apart because of the commission. It leaves Cain Velasquez out in the cold, as he’s going to either be removed from the card or get a new fight less than a month out, and Junior Dos Santos gets the less-sexy matchup of Frank Mir instead of the K-1 champion Overeem. It’s odd that Zuffa would pull Overeem so close to the scheduled meeting with the NSAC, of course, but at this point they’re being realistic. They have no other choice but to do so.
Overeem’s chances of getting licensed have to be small at this point and preemptively putting the veteran Mir into the main event is the best possible scenario for the UFC in the absence of Overeem. Mir is a quality opponent, a former champion who headlined the biggest UFC pay-per-view in the company’s history and is a credible first title defense for Dos Santos.
It’s also good for business, too, as while Overeem is the bigger fight it’s better to let him challenge the winner after this debacle is over (if he eventually gets licensed) than risk having your main event blown up publicly. Letting Overeem deal with this scenario without a fight on the horizon is better than hoping the NSAC is as lenient on a failed urine test as they were for domestic violence charges and prison time for Floyd Mayweather Jr.
At this point having Mir face Dos Santos is the best thing the UFC can do in terms of damage control, as well, because Overeem will have a tough battle in the next couple of years to convince fans and the media that he isn’t a steroid user, as his test could otherwise indicate. And that’s why Overeem is out of the main event. They may or may not have any sort of inside information as to how the commission is leaning before the event, but right now there’s not a good case for it.
Overeem is out because he has to be. Keeping him in the main event and hoping there’s a magical explanation for all of this, so close to the event, would have made things even worse with the man who was supposed to be MMA’s next big superstar most likely facing a lengthy suspension.