It seems like every other day a new fighter is going down for ‘performance enhancement’. Yoel Romero, Frank Mir, Lyoto Machida and that Russian Guy from the Tampa card on the weekend are the most recent examples.
It’s no surprise that elite athletes might seek a competitive advantage. They compete under a business model that only pays them when they compete and pays them double when they win. But whether the fighter blames roided-out kangaroo meat or supplemental taints, it is obvious that we are facing a crisis.
Rumours are everywhere. They start out as whispers. Turn into a chorus. Before long, people begin to beat the drums, screaming in rage at the injustices in front of them.
The athletes in our sport are jacked to the gills in an attempt to gain an edge. And what they’re jacked on… P.O.D.s.
There was a time when the sport was less regulated, less scrutinised. We looked the other way while the evidence stacked up. In the early 2000’s if you went to any MMA gym in the world, it was obvious what people were involved with. Blaring through the speakers as the top fighters in the world trained was Nu-Metal. And one of Nu-Metal’s biggest acts was P.O.D.
Formed in San Diego in 1992, P.O.D. (Payable on Death) found mainstream success around the turn of the millennium. Hits such as ‘Alive’, ‘Southtown’, ‘Youth of the Nation’ and ‘Boom’ launched them from obscurity into the headphones of every gym rat around America. And once entrenched in the gym, it’s only a matter of time until these same fighters are walking out to The Octagon™ under the influence.
The peak of P.O.D. abuse in the MMA probably came at UFC 57 held in Las Vegas, Nevada on the 4th of February, 2006. Not one but two fighters walked out to P.O.D. Both Brandon Vera and Marcio Cruz came out to the Nu-Metal outfit’s jams and it should surprise no one that both fighters finished their foes via strikes in the first round. In fact, Cruz would pop for P.O.D. a second time at UFC 66 at the end of the same year.
While that may have been the high-water mark, it definitely wasn’t the end of the epidemic. Through the following years, as P.O.D. and Nu-Metal’s popularity fell off, the flood became a trickle, and hip hop and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers became the walkout and training music du jour for MMA’s collective conscious. UFC 116 in July of 2010 saw Chris Lytle come out to one of the California quartet’s tunes in what is the last publicly displayed usage of P.O.D. we could uncover.
A deeper delve into one of the band’s biggest hits, ‘Alive’, reveals some lyricism that may explain some of P.O.D.’s performance enhancing capabilities:
I feel so alive
I feel so alive for the very first time
And I think I can fly
It doesn’t take a xyientist to tell you that the ability to fly in the gym or the cage will undoubtably give you a discernible advantage. But as the sport garnered increased popularity, and thus increased scrutiny, P.O.D. usage appeared to be on the decline.
It’s not over people. While researching this article we uncovered an alarming trend bubbling below the surface. Just over a year ago, in Denver, Colorado, Prize Fighting Championship put on an MMA event with an accompanying P.O.D. concert.
Is there any hope for rooting out the problem? Probably not when you’ve got no less than the promoters pushing it in the fighters’ faces. P.O.D. is not going anywhere people. We don’t know if the answer is legislation, regulation or prohibition. We, the public, had assumed the problem had passed, but it’s clear that P.O.D. usage is still rampant and nobody has a solution.