I was really looking forward to “Big Country” Roy Nelson taking on Shane Carwin in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter Finale this Friday night. It was to the point that I was embarrassed to admit how much I was looking forward to it. There was just something awesome thinking about seeing what would happen when Carwin’s iron fist met Nelson’s iron jaw. I half expected both men to remain standing there while “The Joint” crumbled slowly around them. But I digress, because it apparently wasn’t meant to be, as Carwin was forced to drop out of the fight due to a knee injury. In his place on short notice steps Matt Mitrione, who should be excited at the chance to wash the stink of his performance against Cheick Kongo out of our memories with a good showing against Nelson.
In addition to the iron-meets-iron aspect of the Nelson-Carwin bout being lost, the replacement fight also lacks some of the personal undertones that had developed between the former opponents. Not only did Nelson do everything in his power to get under Carwin’s skin during their stint on TUF, he has in the past made some pretty strong suggestions that Carwin is on performance enhancing drugs. Along these lines, Nelson had tried to get Carwin to agree to enhanced VADA drug testing, although Carwin refused. (In fairness to Carwin, he did pass a random Nevada-sponsored drug test last month.)
With Mitrione in, Nelson must have thought that it would only be polite to extend to Mitrione the same enhanced drug-testing courtesy. As appealing as giving blood and urine to strangers at any hour of the day may sound, I am not surprised that Mitrione turned down the offer, telling MMA Junkie:
“Since I was coming on somewhat short notice, cutting a couple weeks out of my camp, and training for a five-round fight, this is something I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any thing that could distract me.”
I get why Mitrione is not agreeing to the enhanced testing, especially after hearing Rory MacDonald complain about how the random tests are annoying when you are prepping to fight. Also, I have never heard Mitrione’s name come up with respect to alleged use of performance enhancing drugs, so passing all of the additional tests would not necessarily have “validated” Mitrione as it would some others.
That being said, I really wish Mitrione would have accepted the offer, and that fighters like he and Carwin when it comes to additional drug tests. Even if the tests are somewhat annoying, and even if the fighter is undoubtedly clean, any step towards voluntarily cleaning up the sport is a worthwhile (if only symbolic) move. Plus, the annoyance is kind of the point; random tests force fighters to stay clean at all times, instead of being able to “cycle off” to test clean for a specific fight. Until more fighters like B.J. Penn, Roy Nelson, and Rory MacDonald step up and embrace sufficiently broad testing, the procedures will never gain mainstream appeal among fighters as a whole. Mitrione agreeing to do so would have been of great symbolism, that even a fighter on short notice is willing to put up with annoyance to clean up the sport. In later fights Mitrione could have been held up as an example, as if he was willing to deal with the inconvenience on short notice, a fighter with a full training camp would have no excuse for not doing the same.
Unfortunately, Mitrione didn’t see it that way.