The UFC has been around now for nearly 27 years and has an absolutely rich history full of incredible stories and characters. However, like any sporting institution, the UFC also has its fair share of myths and legends, and not all of them are true.
Sure, some of the more outlandish tales from the UFC’s early days – Tito Ortiz’s brawl with Lee Murray, Joe Riggs, and Nick Diaz fighting in the hospital – are factual, but unfortunately, many of the others are more fiction than fact.
Here are five UFC myths that have since been exposed.
#1 Jon Jones hid under a cage during training to avoid USADA’s drug testers
Former UFC Light Heavyweight champ Jon Jones is no stranger to drug-related controversy. ‘Bones’ has been suspended on multiple occasions for positive PED tests, and early 2015 even saw him test positive for cocaine of all things.
Perhaps the strangest story involving Jones and drugs came in that same year, right after the positive cocaine test had been revealed. Rumors at the time suggested that the-then UFC champion had escaped from drug testers during a training session by hiding underneath the cage he’d been training in.
Jones’ former rival Chael Sonnen went on to share an anecdote about the story during a 2016 appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast. ‘The American Gangster’ claimed that USADA’s testers had turned up at the Jackson/Wink gym, and in order to avoid them, Jones had hidden under the cage while his training partners claimed they didn’t know his whereabouts.
Interestingly though, this myth is only half true. Responding to a recent jab from current UFC Middleweight champ Israel Adesanya on Twitter, Jones revealed the truth of what happened. He did, in fact, hide from drug testers – but they were from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, not USADA, who didn’t begin their work with the UFC until much later in 2015.
And Jones claimed he hadn’t been using PEDs – but instead, he’d been smoking marijuana, which would’ve triggered a positive test and landed him in hot water. Regardless, only time will tell whether this new confession will have consequences for the former UFC champion.
#2 Zuffa cleaned up the UFC’s image and ushered in the Unified Rules of MMA
Ever since the UFC broke into the mainstream's conscience through its Ultimate Fighter reality show back in 2005, neophyte fans of the promotion have been taught the same thing.
According to what critics now label the ‘Zuffa Myth,’ in 2001, the UFC was on its knees as a promotion thanks to a series of bad business decisions, chief of which was its brutal portrayal of MMA as a sport.
With taglines like “There are no rules,” the UFC, under its former owners SEG, was supposedly just what its critics suggested it was – human cockfighting. That was until Zuffa – the Fertitta brothers and Dana White – swept in to save the promotion in 2001, cleaning it up and ushering in the current Unified Rules of MMA in the process.
So did the UFC really allow moves like biting and eye-gouging as recently as 2001? Well, no. In fact, this myth isn’t true at all. In its earliest days, the UFC did allow such moves, as anyone who’s seen the clash between Keith Hackney and Joe Son at UFC 4 can attest to.
However, the promotion had ushered in rules outlawing those types of moves as early as 1996. By 1997 meanwhile, the first weight classes – with a cut-off of under or over 200lbs – were introduced, and later that year, gloves became mandatory too.
Things continued to evolve from there until early 2000, when New Jersey’s athletic commission – after a lot of work from UFC commissioner Jeff Blatnick and referee John McCarthy – decided to create MMA’s Unified Rules. The UFC’s first event under these rules? UFC 28, two months before Zuffa purchased the ailing promotion.
Zuffa’s leadership can undoubtedly be credited with bringing the UFC into the mainstream, but in terms of “cleaning the sport up,” the truth is that nothing really needed cleaning by the time they stepped in.