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Do MMA fighters take steroids?

Performance-enhancing steroids are drugs that are used to increase muscle mass, strength, and athletic performance. These drugs are typically synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone. They work by increasing the production of proteins, which are the building blocks of muscle tissue.

There have indeed been many documented cases of athletes from various sports – including MMA – using steroids to try and gain a competitive advantage.

performance enhancing drugs
Source: Wikimedia commons

Steroid use among mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters is a controversial and complicated issue. While some fighters may use steroids as a performance-enhancing drug, the use of these drugs is generally considered to be unethical and is prohibited by most MMA organizations including the UFC.

The use of steroids in MMA has a long history, with some fighters openly admitting to using the drugs in the past. In recent years, however, the use of steroids has become increasingly stigmatized and is now widely viewed as cheating. Most professional MMA organizations have strict drug testing policies in place to detect the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Fighters who test positive for steroids or other banned substances may face disciplinary action, including fines, suspensions, and even lifetime bans.

Not only do fighters risk punishment from the relevant sporting authorities for their actions, but they can be risking their health too.

Steroids can have serious health consequences for fighters, including increased risk of heart attack, stroke, liver damage, and mental health issues. In addition, the use of steroids without a prescription is illegal in many jurisdictions. Despite the potential risks and legal consequences, some fighters continue to use steroids in an effort to gain a competitive edge.

Why would fighters take Steroids or PEDs?

There are several reasons why some MMA fighters may be tempted to use steroids. One reason is the desire to improve athletic performance and increase muscle mass and strength. Steroids can help fighters train harder and recover more quickly from injuries, which can be especially appealing for fighters who compete in a physically demanding sport like MMA. In addition, the use of steroids can lead to more impressive physical transformations, which can be a source of pride for fighters and may help them stand out in a crowded and competitive sport.

TJ Dillashaw (Source:

However, the use of steroids is generally frowned upon in the MMA community and is often seen as a sign of poor sportsmanship. Many fighters and fans believe that the use of steroids undermines the integrity of the sport and gives an unfair advantage to those who use them. In addition, the use of steroids can lead to a range of negative consequences, including health problems, legal issues, and damage to a fighter’s reputation.

Evidence of Steroid use in the UFC

While there are many anecdotes and some reported cases of steroid use among MMA athletes, there is also some academic research on the topic. In 2021, Pubmed published a study entitled: “Doping in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC): A 4-year epidemiological analysis“.

USADA logo, source: Wikipedia

As part of this study, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) tested 1,070 UFC athletes a total of 2,624 times from late 2015 to the end of 2019. Out of these tests, 209 adverse findings (16.55 per 1,000 tests) were recorded, with 102 of these being actual anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) committed by 93 athletes (8.7% of all athletes tested).

Anabolic steroids were the most common ADRV recorded. The men’s heavyweight division had the highest ADRV rate (19.3 per 1,000 tests), while the women’s bantamweight and featherweight divisions and the men’s flyweight division had significantly lower ADRV rates (2, 0, and 3 per 1,000 tests, respectively). There was also a significant trend of increasing ADRV rates among the men’s divisions.

What this study showed is that doping (or steroid use) is indeed present in the UFC which represents the highest level of MMA competition in the world.


Steroid use among MMA fighters is a complex issue that is likely to continue to be debated within the sport as it evolves. Despite the obvious health risks and potentially career ending consequences, some athletes still feel the risk is worth taking for the competitive advantage that can be gained in a sport that demands the very peak of athletic performance.


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