By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran British MMA professional Aaron Thomas (pictured), aka ‘Azi Thomas’, has been pulled from a bout in the UK after the nation’s anti-doping body publicly recognised a failed drug test and subsequent international ban spanning four years, reported by DreySports.com. Last year, Thomas competed at the EFC 59 event in Johannesburg, battling to a draw with South Africa’s Pierre Botha. The event was sanctioned by national regulatory body and IMMAF member, Mixed Martial Arts South Africa (MMASA). The Manchester athlete, who holds a professional 9-3-1 record, has since been banned from MMA competition for four years — between 23 June 2017 and 22 June 2021 — following an ‘Anti-Doping Rule Violation’ in a test administered by the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport (SAIDS) – an official WADA affiliate. The SAIDS website confirmed that Thomas had accepted the doping violation. In a public news release on February 2, a UKAD report noted the detected steroid traces: “Mr Thomas tested positive for 2α-methyl-5α-androstan-3α-ol-17one, a metabolite of Drostanolone as well as Nandrolone and its metabolites, 19-norandrosterone and 19-noreticholanolone.” Thomas was also removed from the February 24 Cage Warriors 90 event as a result. On March 22, Russian based promotion ACB announced that Thomas was set to face British standout Regis Sugden on an upcoming card in the UK, taking place on May 19 in Nottingham. Having later been notified, ACB told DreySports.com: “We were made aware that one of the fighters we have announced for ACB Nottingham on May 19th has a situation/issue that means we have had to remove them from the card. We will look to announce a replacement for this bout as soon as possible.” As the recognised government body for MMA in South Africa, MMASA sanctioning is accompanied by drug testing conducted by SAIDS. A branch of the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, UK Anti-Doping is the organisation responsible for protecting sport in the United Kingdom from doping. The acknowledgement shown by UKAD is an unprecedented development for MMA in the UK, legitimising the sport’s status despite it not currently being recognised or sanctioned by government. Therefore, events on British soil are in the position to self-regulate, sometimes without notification of imposed suspensions, be it for doping violations, medical suspensions or other reasons. UKAD’s recognition of international sanctioning is an encouraging step forward, highlighting the need for government relations with the UK MMA Federation (UKMMAF) and the potential for international ties that ensure safe and clean sport, worldwide. Promotions may currently volunteer to adopt UKMMAF sanctioning, in addition to the medical passport service provided by specialist medical clearance and advisory body, Safe MMA.