UFC Charlotte: After Two Years Away, George Sullivan Just Wants to Knock Somebody Out

George Sullivan returns at UFC Charlotte (UFC on FOX 27)
George Sullivan Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

UFC on FOX 27’s George Sullivan is chomping at the bit to get back in the cage, and that’s bad news for opponent Niko Price.

After nearly two years away from the octagon, George Sullivan gets back in the cage this Saturday at UFC Charlotte. The welterweight meets Niko Price, who Sullivan admits to having never heard of prior to this fight. Yet really, he’s just happy to get back in the cage after a bizarre two years that saw run-ins with USADA scrap a pair of scheduled fights.

Sullivan spoke to Cageside Press recently about how good it feels to be getting back in the octagon, opponent Niko Price, and the dangers of the supplement industry for professional athletes. One thing was very, very clear: Sullivan is excited to be back in the face-punching business.

“Amazing” is how he described the feeling of being back. “I didn’t realize how much I missed it. I did a grappling tournament a few months back, and it gave me a little bit of that feeling.”

“I just want to put the four once gloves on and just knock somebody out.”

Still, it was a painful waiting period for a fighter who, until 2016, had always fought at least twice a year. “I was waiting and waiting and waiting, and finally the UFC called me and said ‘you’re back.’ And I was so excited” he said of getting the call. “I’m stoked man, I had two fight camps and never got to release my pressure.”

In short, “it’s good to be back.”

Niko Price is about the be the recipient of that pent up pressure. “I get that he’s been fighting more than me lately, but with my experience and everything, that don’t mean s*** to me” Sullivan told us. “I fought for years, I have five world titles. I just want to get in there and hit somebody in the face full power. That’s all I want to do. I just want to put the four once gloves on and just knock somebody out.” That’s what George Sullivan has been “dreaming about, craving, and I’ve been training my ass off [for].”

Price, in fact, may be the ideal opponent for Sullivan’s return. “For me, he’s aggressive, which is what I need” ‘The Silencer’ told us. “If he comes at me and I hit him, he’s going to go to sleep, like everybody else I hit. We’ll see what happens. He’s a loopy fighter, he’s risky, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

And don’t expect cage rust to be a factor. “No, no that doesn’t bother me at all” he stated.

“When you fight, you fight. I’m not saying I might not be a little rusty, but it’s a fight, you know what I mean? It’s the same thing as you’re doing in practice” Sullivan explained. “I’ve been in front of the UFC, this will be my sixth fight in the UFC, this isn’t my first one. The whole ring rust thing, I think is garbage.” Case in point, former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who had “two years out, comes back, destroys everybody. If it’s your night to fight, and you’re on point, you’re on point. There’s fighters, they bomb when they’ve fought eight fights in a row. It just matters how you deal with the weight cut, and how you feel mentally.”

Saying he’s “over the training,” Sullivan just needs to be unleashed come fight night. “I need to fight. It’s been a long nine weeks of just training and training and training. I’m excited, I can’t wait to just get that feel, that smell, everything to do with fighting.”

Seeing how excited George Sullivan is to be back, how on earth did he stay sane while away? “I opened up my own gym,” he told us, “which a lot of people feel is a blessing in disguise.”

It kept his mind off the other issue at hand: the very public disclosure of his medical history, thanks to a pair of cases with USADA. “Me and my wife have been trying to have a baby, which is no secret since I had to go public.”

“That was the hardest part,” he continued, “it wasn’t even the not fighting thing, it was the fact that I had to go public. So everywhere you go, people were giving their condolences, they stood by me, everybody knew I didn’t cheat. I was only on the medication for two days, I had medical proof that I needed it. What bothered me was, I didn’t look at the marker drugs, I looked at the banned substance part.” Both he and his doctor missed that.

Eventually, USADA handed Sullivan a reduced sentence, though he missed his fight with Randy Brown at UFC 208, and spent a year on the sidelines. The issue was fertility treatment that, as USADA noted in its findings on the case, “he was using in a therapeutic dose under the care of a physician to treat a medical condition.”

“Once everybody knew and I cleared my name, I was kind of able to move on” he continued. “I opened up a brand new 5,000 square foot gym with a Nutrishop inside, and we’ve been crushing it. My gym is getting huge, so that’s really kept me going.”

“Honestly to all the fighters out there, don’t take s*** unless you know for sure.”

Still, it wasn’t easy, especially given it was his second clash with USADA. The first came by way of a supplement which Sullivan had disclosed which turned out to contain IGF-1, a prohibited substance under USADA. Crucially, Sullivan did not test positive for the substance at any point, and the anti-doping agency confirmed it was not on the product label.

“It was deer velvet, and it had an unmarked ingredient that it tested positive for” Sullivan explained about the first infraction. “My blood was clean, my urine was clean, but the supplement I disclosed, that they bought online, was tainted.” Curiously, he’d fought on it several times, and passed all his drug tests. In essence, “they suspended me for not having the supplement tested first.”

It was a bitter pill to swallow, but lesson learned. “We’re in the process of a lawsuit against the company, we’re not going to let them get away with that. They took a year of my life away” he said of the matter. Sullivan later added it’s tough, because the manufacturer is outside of the U.S., but they are continuing to pursue it.

With that in mind, is the supplement industry a concern at this point? Definitely, and George Sullivan has a little advice for fellow fighters:

“Honestly to all the fighters out there, don’t take s*** unless you know for sure. Because these companies exist for one thing, and they don’t care what’s in there. Because it’s not for athletes, it’s for people going to the gym.”

“All these supplements, you never know what you’re taking” he added, noting that Lyman Good had a positive test due to a multivitamin. “Honestly, I’m terrified anytime I put anything in my mouth. I don’t take prescription drugs anymore. Now we’re not allowed to take – they gave us a warning on cold medication too.”

It creates a very real question of “how are we as athletes supposed to stay healthy if we can’t take anything?”

That said, Sullivan is not anti-USADA. In fact, on the education front, he feels that “now they’re doing better,” despite mishandling his first case. “I asked somebody, I won’t say his name, if the deer velvet was legal, and they said yes. Then I fought on it twice, it wasn’t a problem.” Then just a week or so before UFC 208, he got the call no fighter wants to get.

Still, “I think they’re learning over time, they’re helping me with the fertility stuff now. They’re doing their job trying to catch cheaters. I think people like me who haven’t cheated, we’re suffering for the idiots that do cheat on purpose” he offered. “I wasn’t thinking about a fertility pill — even on my pill, I was 36% under a normal testosterone level. Even on the pill. So they knew I wasn’t cheating, wasn’t using it for cheating. That’s why they called me up right away. I got suspended for not asking their permission first.”

“It was kind of hard on me and my wife, because we were just trying to have a baby. We still are, but now we’re trying to do it holistically, which is even harder” he said. He also finished with a warning: “you take something, you’re at your own risk. Don’t go complaining, because it didn’t do me any good.”

The good news is, all that is in the past. Sullivan has a fight to look forward to, just over a week away when we spoke. From what he’s seen of Niko Price, Sullivan summed him up as “a wild crazy striker, but he showed tons and tons and tons of flaws in his last fight.” And it’s not about what Price has shown, but what Sullivan hasn’t. “He hasn’t seen me fight in two years. He has no idea what I’m capable of right now. I’m a completely different fighter in my opinion.”

“He’s in for some rude awakenings if he’s going on the tape of me.”

Noting that his wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and striking are all improved, Sullivan is confident moving forward. And the welterweight, who is working on his own line of supplements, along with Frankie Edgar, has lots to look forward to.

“When my supplement line does come out, we’re working on it now, it will be guaranteed to be safe for competition” he said. “It’s going to be made for MMA, jiu-jitsu, wrestling. Everything that we’re designing is going to be strictly, 100% guaranteed not to be tainted.”

As for his goal in the cage in 2018, “give this one more run. Try to get as many fights in this year, and see where we go. And let my gym grow. Lets show everybody that I’m still here, and even at 37 years old, I feel the best I’ve ever felt, I’m hitting harder than ever. I just want to enjoy fighting for a few more years before I retire.”

Catch George Sullivan making his return at UFC Charlotte (UFC on FOX 27) this Saturday. Sullivan vs. Price is part of the early prelims, exclusively on UFC Fight Pass. They kick off at 3:30 PM EST.