Ultimate Fighting Championship, World Extreme Cagefighting and Pride Fighting Championships veteran John Alessio on Monday admitted to past use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The 32-year-old Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts representative will face Ryan Healy in the Score Fighting Series 4 main event on Friday at Hamilton Place Theatre in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. When questioned about PED use during an interview with the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” program, Alessio jokingly asked if he could plead the fifth.
“I’ll be honest with you,” he said. “I’m an honest person. When I was young -- in my 18, 19, 20s, you know, 22 -- I dabbled in a few of them. I tried them out [to see] how it is, so I know what they can do, and I know how they can work against you also.”
Alessio (33-14) does not look upon the experience as positive, claiming PEDs gave him the typical benefits one would expect but came at the expense of in-fight endurance. At the time, MMA sanctioning was weak, if present at all, and PED testing was virtually non-existent.
“There are proven facts [that] it can make you faster and stronger,” Alessio said, “but there are proven facts [that] it can gas you out eventually.”
According to Alessio, a chiseled physique was not enough of a lure to continue using.
“I’m not in a weightlifting competition. I’m not in a bodybuilding show,” he said. “I’m in a mixed martial arts fight.”
Alessio claims his period of use was brief and helped shape his outlook on the sport today.
“In the dark ages of the sport, I tried [PEDs],” he said, “but I also became a firm believer in ‘let’s make this sport natural.’”
The subject of performance-enhancing drugs surfaced after Alessio revealed he was speaking from the confines of a hyperbaric chamber. That revelation led to questions on the evolution of science and the modern athlete in sports.
“Peak athletes are getting better, younger, stronger and faster,” Alessio said, “and I think science is behind our sport now.”
Alessio thinks today’s athletes benefit greatly from advanced training methods.
“In football, hockey and all those sports, they’ve always had those outlets,” he said. “With science, it has gotten so much better, and athletes are performing better.”
Alessio claims he never advocated PED use and now feels obligated to serve as a role model for aspiring mixed martial artists by showing them they can achieve success naturally. However, he acknowledges the temptation that exists for some to cut corners.
“A lot of people have become dependent upon performance-enhancing drugs and stuff because of the mental factor,” Alessio said. “They don’t feel as strong; they don’t know if they’ll be as mean out there. And I’m definitely against performance-enhancing drugs. I think it’s kind of silly. I don’t think it is necessary at all. I think you can get everything you need naturally.”
A veteran of 47 professional MMA bouts, Alessio has competed all over the world and has tested himself against some of the sport’s most accomplished fighters, including “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner Diego Sanchez, American Top Team’s Thiago Alves and current UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit.
Alessio denied using PEDs during high-profile fights, specifically his welterweight title bout with Pat Miletich at UFC 26 in June 2000. Miletich submitted him with a second-round armbar.
“I never did [PEDs] for a UFC fight, or any major organization,” Alessio said.
Alessio last fought in November, when he defeated Luiz Firmino by unanimous decision at Superior Cage Combat 3. The match served as the longtime welterweight’s first appearance at 155 pounds -- a move he achieved through a healthier diet and more regimented training. Alessio admits PED use remains prevalent in MMA and believes smaller promotions and regulatory bodies in certain parts of the world contribute to the problem. He has no plans to return to PEDs.
“I’m trying to take a stand,” Alessio said.