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Can Alistair Overeem’s Rebuild his Reputation After Positive Drug Test?

In what has to be considered among the most disappointing MMA headlines of 2012, the heavyweight title-bout between Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem scheduled to main event UFC 146 this summer is in severe jeopardy of being cancelled. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past 72 hours, the NSAC revealed Overeem failed a pre-fight drug test following a press-conference for the May fight card.

The limit for T/E ratios is 6-to-1 and Overeem’s “A” sample exceeded 10-to-1, massively over that maximum. Of course, the former Strikeforce heavyweight champ will be granted the right to request the “B” sample be screened and if that comes up negative he will still be given a license to fight. However, chances are this epic heavyweight collision will not be taking place as planned.

Certainly the situation is an unfortunate and frustrating one, but given Overeem’s reputation it is astonishing how few people saw this coming. Listen, Overeem can talk about his horse meat diet all he wants, but unless he is devouring an entire stable of horses and a couple of small ponies on a daily basis, his Godzilla-esque physique is coming from something else he is putting into his body.

The positive drug test is unfortunate but it isn’t something that comes completely out of left field. Pundits have accused “The Reem” of utilizing PEDs for years. He may have gotten away with it up until this point but now that he foolishly got caught it is going to be very difficult for Overeem’s reputation to recover from this.

I’m not saying Overeem is a bad guy but a majority of the MMA audience is going to look at the man in a much more negative light. The ones who claimed Overeem was using performance enhancers all along now have more ammo to belittle him and the ones who clung to his bandwagon will quickly hop off.

Of course, like any fighter of his status he will always have a handful of dedicated followers that will ride with him no matter the circumstances but it seems even some of his most loyal fans are put off by this news.  Though it is going to be tough for Overeem to bounce back it’s not necessarily impossible either.

For starters, Overeem needs to be honest when discussing this incident in public. If he comes out and blames the positive test on tainted supplements, like almost every fighter that gets caught does these days, it is not going to help his reputation at all. At the end of the day, fans appreciate honesty so it is very crucial for Overeem to admit his mistake and give a sincere apology.

Think back to 2003 when former UFC heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia tested positive for steroids and publicly admitted he was using the banned substance to shed excess body fat. Sylvia recovered quite well and eventually reclaimed the heavyweight title three years later without being referred to as a “cheater”.

I also believe it would help Overeem’s public image if he admits that he does not deserve to fight for the championship in the midst of all of this. Sure, it sounds absurd, but if he says that he wants to earn his way back into the title picture and start from scratch the audience will be completely blown away and respect he may have lost will start coming back. Obviously, judging by Dana White’s recent comments on the issue he isn’t going to put Overeem back into a main event spot right off the bat anyway so the smart approach on Overeem’s part is to talk about building himself back to the top from the ground up. Realistically he may only need one more fight to earn another title shot, but if he convinces the audience that in light of his mistake he is going to fight his way through the gauntlet and earn the respect of the organization and fans back it will go a long way.

At the end of the day what Overeem did is inexcusable but there is no sense in beating a dead horse… because chances are Overeem already did and is about to throw it up on his grill. In all seriousness, everyone makes mistakes and we all get caught, but it’s what you do next that counts. Let’s see how “The Demolition Man” bounces back and if he can shake off the negative labels that now stick to him. He just has to be the one to take the first step towards that goal.