Who is UFC new drug testing head George Piro: FBI, surveillance tools, and a conflict of interest?

Is hiring a surveillance guy the way to catch a drug cheater’s wandering eye?

When former FBI agent and current UFC drug testing boss Jeff Novitzky announced that recently-retired FBI Special Agent in Charge George Piro would be overseeing UFC’s new drug testing program in conjunction with Drug Free Sport, the first question that came to mind:

What does George Piro have to do with UFC drug testing?

Last week’s press conference announcing UFC’s departure from Travis Tygart and USADA in favor of hiring a well-heeled former FBI boss raised some eyebrows. The media parroted UFC’s talking points about “the man who interrogated Saddam Hussein” relentlessly. The sanctimonious tone from Mr. Novitzky towards anyone questioning the credentials of Mr. Piro raised my antenna.

John Morgan tweeted, “Passionate response from Jeff Novitzky when I asked about need for oversight for George Piro.”

“To even think that he would go against the principles and values … and make decisions for financial reasons or business purposes, you haven’t done your homework on George Piro.”

So, we did our homework on Mr. Piro, and his law enforcement background tells an incredibly unique story that only piques our curiosity as to why he was hired by UFC.

The first thing we learned about Mr. George Piro is that he’s extremely well-connected to the biggest movers and shakers in political media.

Whether it’s Peter Bergen at CNN or Catherine Herridge at CBS News or Adam Goldman at the New York Times, the former Miami SAC can place a phone call to any major global media outlet and someone will answer. When you come from the world of National Security in the American government, you have power. You have instant connections. One phone call can change the narrative of a story very quickly.

His deep intelligence connections and reputation in the Middle East is quite an asset to have as UFC & WWE expand business ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Security and surveillance is paramount. Hiring Mr. Piro makes a lot of sense if you view the evolving UFC business model under Ari Emanuel through the lens of a quasi government contractor first and a sports operation second.

Very high-level security clearance

The second thing we learned is that Mr. Piro possessed a very high-level security clearance in the FBI.

Before joining the FBI in 1999, he went from the Air Force to work with the Stanislaus County Drug Enforcement Agency. He transitioned to the FBI Phoenix field office. Mr. Piro’s FBI career advancement blossomed quickly under Directors Robert Mueller, James Comey, and Christopher Wray. Mr. Piro steadily built a résumé under multiple Presidential administrations. For over a decade, he rose in the ranks of the most powerful national security divisions within the FBI & Department of Justice. In a video interview shot at the American Top Team gym in Coconut Creek, Florida, Mr. Piro discussed his work experience and learning under the tutelage of John Perren, who was one of the most powerful criminal intelligence analysts in Washington DC.

After spending a decade in DC for the FBI in their Washington Field Office and in an inter-agency capacity overseen by the Counterterrorism Security Group within the White House, he applied to take the job as Special Agent in Charge of the Miami FBI Office. He was back in DC a few years later after an appointment by Director Wray to the number two slot in the International Operations division of the FBI. He returned back to his role as Miami SAC a few years later.

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The third thing we learned about Mr. Piro is how deep his access was to a network of powerful surveillance tools utilized by the American government.

The highest level of Top Secret security clearance is required to work in the Joint Terrorism Task Force for the Washington Field Office. The FBI/DOJ National Security Division has access to the most powerful intelligence tools in the world. There is Section 702 computer surveillance in conjunction with the NSA.

There are National Security Letters. Then there is the Five Eyes joint treaty between America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom which allows for sharing of intelligence collected by those respective governments.

Given the administrative roles that Mr. Piro was assigned to in Washington D.C. he had knowledge of some of the most secretive intelligence compiled by the US Government.

It is interesting to note that the juxtaposition of UFC hiring Mr. Piro while also hiring fighters connected to Ramzan Kadyrov. A highly unusual combination to say the least.

He had access to Mar-A-Lago during protective investigations

The fourth thing we learned about Mr. Piro is that he had access and interaction with the Mar-A-Lago property during protective investigations as the Miami FBI SAC. He also was heavily involved in investigating criminal cyber activity.

Medicare & Medicaid fraud in South Florida is big business. The Miami FBI field is on the investigatory front lines and gained national attention for helping indict former NFL players over allegations of cashing in on phony medical bills.

The Miami bureau is the fifth largest FBI office in the States. It also handles international affairs for US citizens in both Latin America & South America. 

There is also one particular reason that FBI Miami became a unique hot spot for national security: Mar-A-Lago, the primary residence of former US President Donald Trump. Before he was President, while he was President, and after his Presidency, there have been some… unique… situations at Mar-A-Lago that have required the FBI to be in attendance.

One of those incidents included an SUV that breached two security checkpoints and got shot at with bullets. Mr. Piro found himself addressing the media at a rather interesting press conference.

The combination of the FBI and Secret Service working together in matters relating to Mr. Trump certainly created some delicate moments.

As highlighted in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Donald J. Trump over classified documents, the FBI had opened a criminal investigation from Washington in late March of 2022 and DOJ had impaneled a grand jury the next month.

What did Mr. Piro know or not know about the infamous August 2022 “raid” by the FBI of Mar-A-Lago before he retired at the end of June of 2022?

This became one of several public points of contention between Mr. Piro and suspended FBI agents who alleged that the Bureau was politically weaponizing lawfare against political opponents.

Mr. Piro vigorously denied allegations of involvement in the Mar-A-Largo FBI search. One suspended agent, Kyle Seraphin, made serious allegations and had a rather pointed response to the New York Times article publishing Mr. Piro’s denial. 

The UFC’s hiring of a high-profile FBI figure like Mr. Piro would certainly seem to go against the narrative that Ari Emanuel is running a MAGA operation. The reaction from a heavy portion of the UFC audience which supports Mr. Trump will be an interesting story to observe moving forward.

He’s been busy post-FBI retirement

The fifth thing we learned about Mr. Piro is that in his post-FBI retirement stint, he’s been busy connecting with both security & public speaking organizations.

Like many high-level retired FBI agents, Mr. Piro is capitalizing on his access to powerful people by aligning himself with security contractors and creating his own security company, Piro Global Services Inc.

Read the PGS company profile once and you’ll understand quickly that his calling card is intelligence. He is also aligned with NarrowGate Security Agency and was a special guest for the Restaurant Loss Prevention & Security Association. He also was recently appointed to the Advisory Board of V2 Global.

He trains BJJ and proudly represents American Top Team

The sixth thing we learned about Mr. Piro is that he prides himself on physical training and is channeling his ambitions through jiu-jitsu with American Top Team.

Muscle & Fitness Magazine has the ultimate promotional piece:

George Piro: Protecting the American People. FBI Special Agent in Charge George Piro inspires fitness and serious training.

It’s the kind of public relations piece worth its weight in gold. Mr. Piro revealed that he started training at American Top Team when he moved to Miami to be the SAC of that office.

He is proud of his training and who he trains with. This August 7th, 2022 7News Miami WSVN article highlighted his training in preparation for the 2022 No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu Masters Championship, which Mr. Jeff Novitzky highlighted during last week’s press conference with Hunter Campbell. FloGrappling has two videos (one from 2018 and one from 2022) of Mr. Piro’s BJJ contests.

Mr. Piro had plenty of pictures of his BJJ training on his Instagram, with his handle proudly stating his gym affiliation “GeorgePiro ATT.” After UFC’s announcement of his hiring, Mr. Piro’s original Instagram account was still active.

However, he has since changed his social media account name to “GeorgePiro_BJJ” and his profile description was also altered from “American Top Team” to just “BJJ Athlete”

Bloody Elbow has obtained screenshots from before and after.

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What’s the end game?

As a business relationship, UFC hiring Mr. Piro is a win-win situation.

UFC hiring someone freshly departed from the current FBI administration guarantees that Mr. Piro’s governmental and media connections are still active.

With Ari Emanuel transforming UFC into a political operation and quasi-government contractor, Mr. Piro fits perfectly into company management because he won’t make waves like Travis Tygart.

Piro also, to our knowledge, doesn’t have a background in sports medicine or athletic drug testing administration.

Mr. Piro professionally attaching himself to UFC is a huge career boost. He’s likely going to receive a significant paycheck while also maintaining and building deeper connections in the worlds of law enforcement and politics. It’s a lucrative way to maintain and expand the Rolodex he amassed over multiple decades.

Days after Mr. Novitzky announced Mr. Piro’s hiring, the UFC posted a LinkedIn job offer for the administrative assistant position in their new in-house drug testing program. It looks to be an exhaustive undertaking.

After reading the requirements for the job offering to build UFC’s in-house drug testing operation, we’re left to ask one basic question:

Did UFC hire Mr. Piro to oversee a drug testing program?

There are a lot more questions than answers.

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About the author

Zach Arnold

Zach Arnold

Zach Arnold first started writing about combat sports in 1996. He is a veteran professional wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts writer who frequently covered both the California and Nevada athletic commissions starting in 2010. His archived writings can be found at Fight Opinion.

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