You have probably seen fighters looking like bodybuilders watching the UFC events, ripped and jacked. You may wonder, are UFC fighters on steroids? Are they allowed to use testosterone?
UFC fighters are not allowed to take steroids. According to the USADA anti-doping agency, using steroids or other prohibited substances is illegal. Breaking these results usually results in lengthy suspensions.
Throughout history, over 70 UFC fighters have tested positive for steroids, with the majority being top-level fighters and champions. We guarantee you will be surprised by some of the names below.
UFC Fighters Who Have Tested Positive For Steroids
Overeem is the former Strikeforce and Dream Heavyweight champion and K-1 World GP winner.
Overeem’s physique went through drastic changes over the years. He went from being a ripped middleweight to the jacked heavyweight packed with muscles in a very short period.
But after his big win over Brock Lesnar in 2012, Overeem tested positive for testosterone. As a result, he received a nine-month suspension, and his physique never looked as jacked afterward.
Often seen as the best of all time, Anderson Silva is the former UFC middleweight champ with 14 title defenses on his record. Looking at his physique, you would never guess Silva was ever using steroids.
But after losing the title to Chris Weidman and suffering a nasty leg injury, he would fail multiple doping tests. In 2015 Silva tested positive for two different anabolic steroids shortly after his win over Nick Diaz. He received a one-year suspension and lost 30% of his show money ($380,000).
However, he would fail another test two years later, in 2017. This time, the cause was a contaminated supplement, which resulted in another year of suspension.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion has become synonymous with steroids in MMA. The first incident happened when UFC mistakenly emailed Belfort’s blood test results showing elevated testosterone levels to 29 fighters and managers. But, he was never punished for this incident.
In 2014, he failed a random drug test due to elevated testosterone levels (twice the legal). Still, he didn’t receive any punishment because he never applied to fight in the state of Nevada. Although he was never punished for using steroids, Belfort often admitted that he was on testosterone therapy.
Lesnar is the former UFC heavyweight champ, WWE superstar, and a mountain of a man. He is often seen as the most intimidating fighter in history, and by looking at his physique, it is easy to see why. And why the MMA community accused him of using steroids.
However, Lesnar never failed a drug test for most of his career. The first and only time he tested positive for steroids was after his last win at UFC 200 against Mark Hunt. As a result, he was banned from competing for a year and had to pay a $250,000 fine.
Cyborg is often seen as a female version of Mike Tyson. She is physically strong, explosive, and can shut your lights out with a single punch. She did on many occasions on her road to winning world titles in four different organizations.
In 2011, Cyborg defended her Strikeforce title by beating Hiroko Yamanaka. But her anti-doping test came out positive for stanozolol, a type of anabolic steroid. She received a one-year suspension and a $2,500 fine, and the commission overturned the outcome to no contest.
Mir is the former undisputed interim UFC champion and one of the best BJJ-based fighters in sports history. As a person who suffers from low testosterone levels, Mir started testosterone replacement therapy in 2012. But in 2014, this method of healing got banned by the UFC.
In 2016, his USADA test came out positive for turinabol metabolites after the Mark Hunt fight. Mir got a two-year suspension and never fought for the UFC again.
Former Olympic Judoka and UFC contender, Hector Lombard, is among the most muscular fighters in history.
In 2015, his UFC 182 drug test was positive for desoxymethyl testosterone (DMT). In his defense, Lombard said he wasn’t aware the product he used on the day of the fight contained any illegal substances. He took full responsibility and received a one-year suspension and a $53,000 fine.
Throughout his career, Jones has been involved in many incidents inside and outside the octagon. Thus, multiple times, the most dominant UFC champion received many years of suspensions for breaking anti-doping rules.
In 2016, Jones’s off-competition USADA test was positive on two banned substances (clomiphene and letrozole) less than 48 hours before the iconic UFC 200 event. Though he proved contaminated supplement was the cause of the issue, he still received a one-year suspension.
But one of his biggest scandals came in 2017 when his UFC 214 got flagged for doping violations by USADA. He tested positive for turinabol, a well-known anabolic steroid, and initially, he faced a 4-year suspension.
However, he decided to cooperate with USADA, which resulted in the agency reducing the suspension to 15 months and 3 months of community service.
The former UFC Heavyweight champion failed a couple of drug tests in his career while fighting in different promotions.
At UFC 36, Barnett beat Randy Couture to win the heavyweight title. But shortly after, the Athletic Commission announced Barnett tested positive for steroids, and the UFC immediately stripped him of his title. He would later test positive for anabolic steroids while fighting for Affliction in 2009.
Following his win over Abel Trujilo, Tibau got suspended for a potential off-competition anti-doping violation. Soon after, he also failed the in-competition test for erythropoietin, resulting in a 2-year suspension and his win over Trujilo overturned to a loss.
In 2019, the UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw, decided to move a division down and challenge Henry Cejudo for the flyweight belt.
Dillashaw already cut a lot of weight to make 135 pounds, and people doubted whether he could hit the scale at 125 pounds. Although he managed to do it, he did it with the help of EPO, a substance banned by USADA.
As a result, USADA issued him a 2-year suspension from the sport, returning to competition in 2021.
Silva is the former UFC heavyweight contender involved in a bizarre doping scandal. Following his win over Brandon Vera at UFC 125 in 2011, Silva returned to the locker room to provide the Athletic Commission agents with the urine sample.
But when he went to the bathroom, he filled the cup used for testing with the fake urine he had previously bought online, which he placed down his shorts to alter the test results. Of course, the Athletic Commission later discovered the plot, and Silva received a one-year suspension and 30% of his fight purse ($20,000).
Mirko CroCop Filipovic
The former PRIDE, K-1, Rizin Grand Prix winner, and one of the best strikers in the history of the game, Mirko CroCop, returned to the UFC in 2015 with a dominant win over Gabriel Gonzaga.
But in November of the same year, USADA flagged the CroCop test for a potential doping violation. Crocop admitted to the use and said he used it to treat the shoulder injury.
USADA handed him a two-year suspension from the sport, and the UFC terminated the remaining bouts on his contract soon after.
However, it was later revealed that his USADA tests came out negative. But the suspension remained because Crocop admitted to taking the banned substance.
When Melendez signed with the UFC in 2012 as the most dominant Strikeforce lightweight champion, he immediately got a shot at the UFC title. Many thought he would become a champion.
Apart from being unable to mimic the same success, Melendez was also caught using steroids. Following his loss against Eddie Alvarez at UFC 188, USADA announced Melendez’s post-fight test was positive for the exogenous origin of testosterone metabolites. He received a one-year suspension for breaking UFC anti-doping rules and was never the same fighter afterward.
Werdum is among the best grapplers the sport has ever seen and the former UFC heavyweight champion. After losing the title in 2016 to Stipe Miocic, Werdum was on a mission to get the belt back. But his title aspirations were put on hold in 2018 when he got flagged for a potential doping violation.
Later, it was revealed the test came out positive for an anabolic steroid called trenbolone. Initially, he got a 2-year suspension. However, the suspension was later reduced to 10 months.
Can UFC Fighters Take Testosterone?
According to the USADA doping agency and Athletic Commissions, UFC fighters are prohibited from taking testosterone. They will receive lengthy suspensions and money fees if they break these rules. Do fighters still manage to find a way to use steroids and get away with it? Absolutely.
The success of UFC fighters is directly related to their athletic performance. Steroids help them improve strength, and cardio, lose body fat, recover, and overall enhance their performance and chances of winning. Thus, steroids and the usage of other banned substances to get an advantage over the opposition will always be present.
It is a constant cat-and-mouse game between fighters and anti-doping agencies. On one side, anti-doping agencies are constantly improving the quality of testing, while on the other, athletes are continually finding new ways to get away with cheating.
Are Steroids Banned in MMA?
As long as they compete in legal events governed by Athletic Commissions, MMA fighters are not allowed to use steroids. However, methods and quality of testing and how often MMA fighters get tested vary between the promotions and countries.
For example, PRIDE was a Japanese MMA promotion known for not having any drug testing policies. Fighters could use any substances they wanted to without worrying about being caught cheating.
In modern times, UFC cooperates with USADA, and both sides invest a lot of resources to keep the sport clean. Each athlete is tested in and off competition multiple times per year without previous notice.
But some small MMA shows are regulated only by the Athletic Commission of the state or country where the event occurs. Fighters are tested only a couple of days before and after the fight, and that’s it. So despite being illegal, the lack of advanced testing gives fighters a lot of room to use steroids and get away with cheating.
How Often Do UFC Fighters Get Tested?
Since 2015, the UFC has been collaborating with the USADA doping agency, responsible for carrying out the tests, educating athletes, and issuing suspensions.
USADA started by performing around 3,000 tests every year, progressively increasing the number of tests yearly. In 2021, the agency carried out over 4,000 tests, and each of 600 UFC fighters was tested multiple times.
The exact number of tests varies between the fighters. Some fighters who have fought for many years and have never failed a test would get tested a couple of times. Some of the others who got caught, like TJ Dillashaw, would have to provide samples more than 20 times in a year.
Can UFC Fighters Refuse a Drug Test?
Each fighter with an active contract with the UFC must provide samples whenever USADA needs to collect them. Refusing or running away from testing is punishable and often results in lengthy suspensions.
Final thoughts On Steroids In The UFC
Cheating and finding ways to get an advantage over the opposition will always be part of sports. Especially in the individual ones where your success directly depends on your athletic performances, such as MMA.
Are UFC fighters on steroids is a controversial topic. During the development of the sport in the 90s and 2000s, the testing was not as rigorous as it is today, and it was easier for the fighters to get away with cheating.
In modern times, UFC’s partnership with USADA makes it harder for the fighters to use prohibited substances without being caught. But don’t think some fighters didn’t find a way to beat the system for a second.