After first avoiding it, UFC President Dana White had a conversation with Stephan Bonnar about his positive steroid test following UFC 153.
As it turns out, the talk took place this past week prior to White honoring the longtime UFC fighter with a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame, which drew criticism from critics and then a fiery reply from the executive.
“We hugged it out, and he kept explaining to me why he did what he did, and I said, ‘It doesn’t f–king matter why you did it. You did it. You lied to me,’” White said.
Bonnar (15-8 MMA, 8-7 UFC) retired after losing to now-former champ Anderson Silva at the pay-per-view event this past October. He then tested positive for the anabolic steroid drostanolone, which was his second failure for performance-enhancers.
Despite anger toward Bonnar over the sour note on which he ended his career, White has defended the decision to include him on the promotion’s honor roll alongside Forrest Griffin, who fought him in the finale of “The Ultimate Fighter 1? in one of the most exciting bouts in UFC history. Griffin was side by side with his former opponent for this past weekend’s HOF induction at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.
The UFC president credits the reality show’s finale with saving the UFC, which was deeply in the red when the inaugural reality show was filmed. He’s shot down any notion that Bonnar’s average record and PED problems have overshadowed his early accomplishment.
Bonnar has said he didn’t mean to cheat, but fix longstanding problems with his knees when he took the steroid.
“He started re-explaining everything, and I wouldn’t take excuses,” White said. “‘Dude, I’ve always been straight up with you. I’ve always been good to you. Anything you ever needed – you lied to me.’
“I’m over it. We’re cool.”
White is also cool that Bonnar chose not to use his induction to apologize to fans for his PED use.
“That was his moment,” White said. “He got inducted into the Hall of Fame. He can say whatever he wants to say. He said what he had to say to me backstage. He’s probably going to be upset that I told you. Here we go again.”
For White, the interaction didn’t leave him thinking about PED use in MMA, but rather the investment fighters make in their time in the promotion, and what happens when the fight purses stop coming in. Bonnar, he said, was worried that he wouldn’t be able to do further work for the UFC, as White had promised prior to the second positive test.
“He talked about how much this has meant to him and his life,” White said. “One of the things guys face is, and he said it – ‘The UFC was a part of my life for so long, and now it was looking like it wouldn’t be,’ which wasn’t true, either, because I always said that Stephen and Forrest would always have a place here. But I understand what he was saying – this is my identity, this is everything to me.
“That’s why, again, without getting into fighter pay – ‘Oh my god, you cut so-and-so. You bastard. You did this and that.’ This isn’t a long-term f–king job. You don’t come into the UFC thinking, ‘Man, I’m going to stay here until I’m 65, and then I’m going to retire, get a pension, and I’m going to this and that. It’s a f–king short-term gig.
“You have a window of opportunity that’s about this big – if you’re lucky. If you’re lucky, it’s this big, and you’re talented enough, and you get in there, and you do as many amazing things as you can in front of as many people as you can, and make as much money as you can, and enough contacts, so that when that inevitable day that will finally come when it’s over, you’ve put yourself in a great position to where you can move on a do better things. And hopefully, if you’re worked it out right, you don’t ever have to work again. Who the f— on this planet do not understand that?”
Some of White’s critics on Bonnar are the same ones who have issued criticism about the UFC’s pay practices. He’s often used Griffin as a model for what types of spending habits fighters should have in a business where a few losses can mean a trip to the unemployment line.
“Forrest always says this: ‘Go out and fight like you, but go to the bank like me,’ which means he’s cheap as hell,” he said. “Forrest is still wearing a jacket that he won in Season 1 of ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’ He’s still driving the f–king Scion. You know Scion grabbed him and they’re going to do some type of commercial on him and how many miles this kid has on his car, and it’s still running. Forrest is a cheap motherf—er, and that’s the way you’ve got to be in this business. Save your money. Put it away. Do the right things with your money, because in this sport, your time could be over any minute.”