UFC waiving 6-month rule ahead of Tate’s return

MMA

LAS VEGAS — The UFC is waiving a regulation in its anti-doping policy to make room for the return of Miesha Tate.

Hunter Campbell, the UFC’s executive vice president and chief business officer, told ESPN on Friday that Tate will not have to be in the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) drug-testing pool for the full six months before returning to fight.

Tate told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto on Wednesday that she would be coming out of a five-year retirement to fight Marion Reneau on July 17.

In the UFC’s anti-doping policy, there is a provision that states any athlete who voluntarily leaves the drug-testing pool — like Tate did when she retired in 2016 — must be drug tested over the course of six months before returning to competition. According to the policy, the UFC can waive the rule in “exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair” to the fighter.

Campbell said the spirit of the rule is to prevent fighters from taking themselves out of the drug-testing pool, using performance-enhancing drugs and then quickly coming back in to compete. That’s not the case for Tate, Campbell said, who retired to start a family — she now has two children — and take an office role at ONE Championship in Singapore.

Campbell added that Tate was drug-tested 12 times in 2016 with no issue, and the expectation is that she will be tested between four and 10 times between now and the fight with Reneau. Tate entered back into the drug-testing pool Thursday, according to UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky, who said that he has a “high, high degree of comfort” with the UFC waiving the rule in Tate’s case.

Four months, Novitzky said, will be plenty of time to learn whether Tate had used any performance-enhancing drugs recently and the biological passport USADA has on file for her would show discrepancies if Tate had taken anything during her time off.

“I think we’ve almost set our standard too high,” Novitzky said. “There’s no other professional sport that I’m aware of in the world where you have this rule where someone has to be in for a period of time before they can compete. It’s unique.”

Tate, the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion, told reporters Friday at the UFC Apex that she is prepared for “plenty” of tests between now and July 17.

“I think it’s obvious that I didn’t retire so I can go and take drugs and try to come back, right?” Tate said. “That’s why they don’t want you to do that. I went and had kids. I was serious about the retirement. I’ll take as many [Notes:tests] as they want. They can test me every single day starting yesterday and I’m completely confident that there’s not gonna be any problems.”

Tate (18-7) retired following a loss to Raquel Pennington at UFC 205 on Nov. 12, 2016. In her previous bout, she dropped the UFC women’s bantamweight title to Amanda Nunes, who remains champion now. Tate, 34, finished Holly Holm by fifth-round submission to win the belt at UFC 196 in March 2016. She is also a former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion.

On Friday, Tate said she didn’t come back just for a one-off. She has six fights left on her UFC deal, which was frozen during retirement, and plans to see what happens in the next two years.

“I’m not here for anything less than gold,” Tate said. “I want to be the best in the world.”

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