In a sport where announced ‘retirement’ is frequently far from final there are often rumors swirling of the imminent return of former stars in the UFC.
How easily can a ‘retired’ UFC fighter return to the promotion given the new USADA Anti-Doping Policy?
As previously discussed as soon as a fighter announces retirement they cease to be subject to anti-doping testing by USADA. If they wish to return, however, they need to provide “written notice of his/her intent to resume competing” and then make themselves available for testing for at least four months prior to their first bout.
The custom tailored UFC/USADA anti-doping policy, however, has carved out an exception to this 4 month period at the UFC’s sole discretion with the policy stating the “UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to the Athlete”
It is unclear what the UFC considers to amount to ‘exceptional circumstances‘ or when applying a 4 month testing window would be ‘manifestly unfair‘ to a returning athlete.
This loophole does not exist for an Athlete who retires while suspended for an anti-doping violation under the policy. Those athletes must make themselves available for testing for at least 4 months prior to returning to the sport after ‘retirement’.
For any fighters contemplating retirement or a return from retirement, and for media reporting on rumored returns, the relevant ADP sections read as follows –
5.7 Former UFC Athletes Returning to UFC Competition
5.7.1 An Athlete who gives notice of retirement to UFC, or has otherwise ceased to have a contractual relationship with UFC, may not resume competing in UFC Bouts until he/she has given UFC written notice of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of four months before returning to competition. UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete
5.7.2 If an Athlete retires from UFC competition while subject to a period of Ineligibility, the Athlete shall not resume competing in UFC Bouts or competitions approved or sanctioned by an Athletic Commission until the Athlete has given four months prior written notice (or notice equivalent to the period of Ineligibility remaining as of the date the Athlete retired, if that period was longer than four months) to UFC of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for that notice period.