What should we think about Mirko Cro Cop being booked for Bellator 200?

Bellator MMA

By now you have seen that former UFC heavyweight Mirko Cro Cop has been scheduled to have a rematch with Roy Nelson at Bellator 200 in London on May 25 and when this fight was first announced, I was not sure how to react. Mainly due to the fact that in November of 2015, Cro Cop was handed a two year suspension by USADA after he “admitted to the use, attempted use, and possession of human growth hormone.”

The suspension by USADA was announced on November 25, 2015 and following the news of the suspension, Cro Cop announced his retirement. He would end up being released from his UFC contract and his retirement would be short lived as he stepped back inside competition on September 25, 2016 in the 2016 Rizin Open Weight Grand Prix. That would be one of six fights he took in Rizin, winning all of them including a TKO victory over Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Open Weight Grand Prix.

In basic terms, Cro Cop ignored the USADA suspension and fought overseas in a fight promotion that is not regulated by a commission under the rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC). It should be noted that USADA suspensions are now listed in the MMA database as educational purpose only and are not a regulatory body suspensions. This is honestly why I am conflicted in some ways on Bellator booking Cro Cop. However, Bellator does not self-regulate their international shows as in 2015, they hired ABC President Mike Mazzulli and the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulations to regulate these events and the handling of in-competition and out-of-competition drug testing.

Now drug testing in Bellator is a topic I do my best to report on. For example, did you know that Matt Mitrione and Roy Nelson submitted in-competition drug tests for their matchup at Bellator 194? Well that did happen and there is more drug testing going on in Bellator than people may realize. Over the past couple of years, Mazzulli has confirmed to me about drug testing he has requested for fighters competing on shows at the Mohegan Sun Arena or events taking place overseas. This has been for both in-competition and out-of-competition testing and these drug tests have been submitted in the United States, Brazil, Russia, and I am fairly certain that this will happen in Croatia in the very near future, if it hasn’t taken place already.

When Bellator announced that Cro Cop would be on the London card, people questioned the promotion on why they are doing this since Cro Cop competed in Japan while being on a USADA suspension. And I completely understand why some people may be outraged on this, but if you have outrage about this, it should not be directed at Bellator. Bellator is a promotion and they do not license fighters and another point is that USADA does not license fighters. Since USADA came into MMA, I was told a line that I have never forgotten: USADA works for promotions, not commissions. Let’s not forget that USADA is not a regulator and legally speaking, I am not sure how they could stop Cro Cop from fighting for any fighting promotion.

After seeing all of the reactions from MMA media and talking to people in the industry that I value their opinion, I put our a tweet to gauge how the MMA fans felt about Bellator booking Cro Cop to fight Nelson at Bellator 200 and it was very interesting to me to see the tweets I received.

After seeing those responses and other tweets I received, it became clear that fans don’t care about the USADA suspensions for the most part and have no issues with Mazzulli allowing this fight to take place. In terms of the approving of this fight, Cro Cop will have to go through various medical testing, which any fighter that fights under the regulation of the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulations must pass to be granted a license. And I will say this about Mazzulli, he is a no BS type of guy and I am sure he has done his due diligence on whether or not to give Cro Cop a license.

While I am still unsure how to fell about this topic, I think if this fight was scheduled for this time last year, Mazzulli would not license Cro Cop since he would still be in the two year window of the suspension he received from USADA, which that two year window expired three months ago.

I guess my biggest question on this topic is would USADA care if Cro Cop was going to fight in a promotion not named Bellator or is their issue that the ABC President is potentially going to regulate a fight with a fighter that was handed a suspension by them? Whatever happens over the next two months, this is a landmark decision and will likely having lasting effects with USADA being the third-party drug testing administrator for the UFC.