Enhanced, out-of-competition drug testing comes to about $45,000 per fight. Testing everyone on a single card would exhaust the entire yearly budget for the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
ZUFFA CEO Lorenzo Fertitta has made a commitment to underwrite the costs where Athletic Commissions think it is merited, but are unable to foot the bill. So far they have paid for Travis Browne vs. Josh Barnett at UFC 168, and Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira at UFC 172. They will be paying for Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Ellenberger at UFC 173.
The testing that government athletic commissions do varies enormously from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but it is fairly typical to do day-of urine testing for PEDs and recreational drugs for title fights, and at random for several other fighters on the card. When a fighter had previously tested for PEDs, the top commissions try to do a non-fight day test. The testing is generally done on urine, and is not comprehensive.
By contrast, the enhanced testing involves flying a lab employee to the athlete multiple times (Jones for example said he was tested four times). Both blood and urine samples are taken. And the samples are subjected to much closer scrutiny at a WADA-accredited lab in Utah, looking for for example HGH and synthetic testosterone.
Now NSAC chair Francisco Aguilar is considering the Missouri-based National Center for Drug Free Sport, which uses independent test collection professionals, and can cut the price to $20,000 per fight. Fighter location is obviously a huge factor in cost, particularly given the high percentage of international fighters on the UFC roster.
"We're just exploring all our options at this point to find a more cost effective way to do this," Aguilar told MMAJunkie.
The same lab, a World Anti-Doping Agency-approved facility in SLC, Utah, would analyze the samples. The difference would be in personnel, which presumably makes for slightly more challengeable chain of custody than having lab employees flown to the test site. Aguilar sad the NCDSF has worked with the NCAA and MLB, which have both dealt with considerable issues abound PEDs. The NCDSF also did the drug testing for Jones vs. Teixeira.
"It's not the only option," said Aguilar. "I'm just trying to be ahead of the game for the July fight."
"If I can get it down to $20,000 or $25,000, I think we'd be in a good position of building on the efficiency of the program. It's an ever-evolving process."