MELBOURNE, Australia — Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight contender Valerie Letourneau was already facing an uphill battle when she challenges champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the belt in the co-main event of UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Then she found out for sure she’d have to go the cage without her friend and training partner Hector Lombard.
Lombard, a UFC welterweight contender and former Olympian in judo for Cuba, is currently suspended from mixed martial arts competition for a failed drug test.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency, which operates the UFC’s drug testing program, ruled Letourneau would be in violation of the rules under the “prohibited association” clause should Lombard work in her corner while he is suspended.
While the issue has been discussed behind the scenes for several weeks, MMA Junkie reported the official decision this week.
Letourneau, more than a 10-to-1 underdog, didn’t want to go into detail about her disappointment with the situation.
“I don’t want to talk too much about that because it’s nothing positive for me,” she said. “But all I have to say is the job is done. My training was at the gym. The only thing that hurts is that Hector has been so much a part of my improvement and my career in the last three years that I just feel it’s disgusting for him to not be able to be a part of this. But he’ll be in the crowd and he knows how much I care and how grateful I am for how much he has helped me.
“But the work is done. I could go in there with no corner and I can still do my job.”
Lombard tested positive for an anabolic steroid following what was originally a win over Josh Burkman in Las Vegas in January. He is eligible to apply for reinstatement after Jan. 3.
The prohibited association rule bars UFC athletes from working with coaches, trainers, cornermen, managers, agents or others while participating in or preparing for a bout.
Fighters in violation of the rule are subject to a two-year suspension, though they are not found to be out of compliance until they are given notice about the potentially prohibited relationship and given a chance to terminate it.
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