UFC fans have watched Matt Riddle grow up right before our very eyes. The 27-year-old welterweight burst on to the scene as a contestant on the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. Riddle was the second selection for Team Rampage after knocking out Dan Simler to get into the house. Dana White called it the biggest knockout in TUF history; unfortunately for Simler he suffered a broken jaw in two places, but it made Riddle instantly recognizable.
Up until yesterday Riddle was one of only two fighters in the UFC who has had every one of their professional fights take place inside the Octagon, the other being TUF 10 contestant, Matt Mitrione. All of that will soon change for Riddle because the organization released him after he failed his second drug test in seven months following his win over Che Mills at UFC on Fuel TV 7 in England two weeks ago.
Although Riddle is prescribed medical marijuana by a physician in Las Vegas, the UFC decided that they could no longer afford to have Riddle on their roster. His first failed test came back in July after he submitted Chris Clements at UFC 149 in Calgary. Both times Riddle saw two hard earned victories overturned to no contests. The Allentown, PA native uses marijuana to calm his nerves and help him sleep, but now it has cost him his job with the biggest MMA organization in the world.
Riddle joined us on BJPenn.Com Radio tonight to discuss what happened and what he plans on doing next.
“They (UFC legal department) hit me up yesterday morning and said I had failed a drug test,” Riddle told BJPenn.Com Radio. “I still don’t know how it’s possible; I quit smoking three weeks out from the fight. I’ve passed drug tests when I quit two weeks out from a fight; it’s just crazy to me. I asked for my numbers and they sent me a form that just said I tested positive for marijuana. It didn’t say how much, it just said I was over the amount.”
”It is what it is I’ve failed two drug tests in seven months. There’s not much I can do I was prescribed my medicine and I’m going to take it. I got fired over taking my medicine because I don’t want to take pharmaceutical drugs or testosterone. This is what works for me, it’s just s****y, but it is what it is.”
One can only imagine what went through Riddle’s head when he first heard the devastating news, but after the initial shock wore off he had to take everything into account and figure out his next step. The UFC has fired many fighters before only to bring them back after they have gotten a few wins under their belt or gotten their act together. Riddle’s failed tests may look bad, but others have made their way back to the Octagon after committing worse sins.
“They said if I go out, win a couple of fights and pass a couple of drug tests, I’ll get a call back,” admitted Riddle. “At this point I’m going to do my own thing, I’m going to fight and hopefully it’s not too hard to line something up. I just want to get some fights lined up and keep moving.”
Many wonder why Riddle doesn’t choose to take something legal to help him deal with his anxiety and other issues. There are plenty of other medications available for him to take that are designed to alleviate his symptoms, but he’s gone that route before and he has had no luck with anything that has been prescribed to him.
“It (Marijuana) doesn’t just help me sleep, it relaxes me,” Riddle said. “It also takes care of my aches and pains. I’ve had four surgeries since I joined the UFC and I had knee surgery before I signed with them. Even taking ibuprofen makes me sick, I get nauseous and it hurts my stomach. I can’t even handle anything stronger than that, I’m not allergic to it, I just can’t stomach it.”
In this day and age there is an answer for everything; people are constantly coming up with ways to cheat the system. You can walk into any head shop and buy a drink that will flush your system for a few hours and allow you to pass a drug test. There are also pills you can buy that will have the same effect. Companies are making money hand over fist because people don’t want to stop getting high and have to pass drug tests in order to keep their job or in some cases their freedom. Riddle knows all about these concoctions, but doesn’t want to be known as a cheat.
“I never wanted to cheat, the rules are I can’t fight and have it in my system, I understood that completely,” offered the father of twin daughters. “I’ve always taken precautions in the past, the only time I failed before this was when I fought in Calgary and that was because I took the fight on less than a week’s notice”.
“I still don’t know how I failed this drug test; I really don’t know how I could’ve failed it. I fluctuate like 15lbs. a day during my training camps because I workout two to three times a day. If it’s a hard workout I’ll lose about 7lbs. and gain it right back. I had 21 days, I know people who have passed in seven days, and I’ve passed in less time. I got a call from the legal department yesterday and I was just shocked.”
Riddle has been on somewhat of a roll over the past year. If you take away the two no-contests, he has won four straight and was slowly climbing his way up the welterweight division. It’s understandable that the UFC would want to release him after failing two drug tests, but you can take a look at plenty of other fighters on their roster who are not only getting suspended for PED’s, they aren’t performing well in their fights. Riddle chooses to take the high road and work on getting better as a fighter. He does have an opinion on why they were so quick to release him and keep others under contract.
“It does bother me, for some reason the UFC hates people that smoke weed,” Riddle said. “The whole MMA industry for some reason hates people that smoke marijuana. I don’t know why, I keep to myself for the most part. I smoke weed and I fight. Usually I put on exciting fights or I dominate people, I always go out there and fight. It’s stupid that I got fired over a plant, but other people think it’s stupid that I just won’t stop smoking. I quit three weeks before my fight and this is what works for me. If you were me or lived with me you’d understand.”
One last subject that we touched on with Riddle is the fact that his medical marijuana card is issued from the state of Nevada, the same state where the UFC is based. It may not get him far, but contacting an attorney for wrongful termination is something that Riddle thought about long before it ever became an issue.
“I thought about that even before this situation came up,” admitted Riddle. “I knew it might come up one day and I thought about going to talk to a lawyer, but for now I’m just trying to figure out my next step. I’m not too worried, but at the same time I just can’t sleep on it. The only good thing is the athletic commission didn’t suspend me because it was a UFC administered drug test. They can’t suspend me so I can fight tomorrow, but I’d fail a drug test tomorrow though so I’ll wait a month or so!”
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