The Ultimate Fighting Championship had been rocked by recent drug test failures of high-profile stars.
This week, the company began to fight back.
"We're extremely disappointed by the failed drug tests," UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta said in a press conference Wednesday from the Red Rock Casino Resort in Las Vegas to announce the company's new drug policy.
Fertitta, who was joined by UFC President Dana White, said the UFC will partner with a to-be-determined third party company who will take care of the testing, both in and out of competition for all fighters under contract. Fertitta added the UFC will "advocate" to state athletic commissions for stringent punishments for fighters who fail drug tests, before stating he hopes the plan will be fully implemented by July 1.
White suggested first time punishments could range between "two-and-four years."
"If you are using [performance enhancing drugs] you are going to get caught," White continued. "I don't know if there [is a drug epidemic] here. It's definitely a problem. We're about to find out [how significant a problem drug use in UFC is]. It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better."
Not two full months into 2015, UFC has seen light heavyweight Jon Jones, future Hall-of-Famer Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz all fail drug tests. Jones was tested out of competition on Dec. 4 and failed for cocaine. According to White, Jones passed two subsequent tests for illicit and performance-enhancing drugs.
Silva failed a pre-UFC 183 test for Drostalone and Androstone, and failed post-fight tests for Oxazepam and Temazepam. Diaz, who lost to Silva via unanimous decision at UFC 183, failed a post-fight test for marijuana metabolites.
Fertitta said UFC "will pay for additional costs" for the testing, but noted he is unsure of the program's total cost. Fertitta said UFC has been engaged in discussions with companies who will administer and collect both blood and urine for the tests, but refused to name the companies.
"We can do better," Fertitta said, before noting UFC had "firsthand" knowledge of "19" out of competition tests, which saw "26 percent" of fighters fail.
"[That] is alarming to us," Fertitta said. "Not doing something was not an option.
"We need to get ahead of this."
Ronda Rousey has a message for those who those who think the UFC could be flirting with danger by having women's fights as the centerpiece of pay-per-views:
"Why are we still asking [that] question," Rousey said when asked by a reporter from Breitbart Sports Wednesday afternoon if she was concerned about potential fan backlash to the Feb. 28 UFC 184 pay-per-view, during a late afternoon conference call Thursday with reporters.
Rousey's women's bantamweight title defense against Cat Zingano will headline UFC 184 card, and the Raquel Pennington-Holly Holm fight is the semi-main event.
"It's a great opportunity to prove something. I think this card going to perform extremely well."
Rousey did stress she is not in favor of gender-specific fight cards.
"I think every card should appeal to as many audiences as possible," Rousey said.
On Monday, UFC formally announced the card for its Apr. 18 Fight Night card emanating from Newark's Prudential Center. The main event for that card will be a middleweight bout between Luke Rockhold and Lyoto Machida.
The rest of the card breaks down as follows:
Jacare Souza meets Yoel Romero in the semi-main event. Women's strawweights Felice Herrig faces rising star Paige VanZant. Cub Swanson will take on Max Holloway in a featherweight fight. Jersey star Jim Miller challenges Paul Felder. Long Island fighter Aljamain Sterling will square off Takeya Mizugaki in a bantamweight fight. Middleweights Eddie Gordon will square off with Chris Dempsey. Light heavyweights Corey Anderson and Gian Villante will face off, as will middleweight Nick Catone and Vitor Miranda. The last bout involves welterweights George Sullivan and Kenny Robertson.