Despite 16 years of wear-and-tear fighting against the absolute best mixed martial artists in the world, Brazilian superstar Vitor Belfort has never looked better.
At his age, few men do.
Even with 32 professional MMA bouts under his belt since 1996, "The Phenom" looks like he's barely slowed down at all, as seen at UFC on FX 7 when he violently shut down co-headliner Michael Bisping with a spectacular high kick.
But was it all his own natural talent? Or was Belfort aided by something extra?
No, we're not talking about any sort of divine favor from God, although He's certainly one of Belfort's most prominent and often-mentioned sponsors.
What's really the question of the hour is whether Belfort is on testosterone replacement therapy, better-known to most as "TRT."
And if not testosterone, is he "on" anything at all?
It's hard to tell, as Belfort has always been one of those freakishly muscular figures reminiscent of horrible 1990s comic book covers. But even ESPN writer Brett Okamoto couldn't get a straight answer out of the UFC veteran, despite asking point-blank:
ESPN: Some fighters in their 30s have been diagnosed with low testosterone levels and received exemptions to use testosterone replacement therapy [TRT]. Have you ever applied for TRT or would you consider it?
Belfort: If a question is private, I have the choice to answer or not. If I make it public, it's not private anymore. If I want to say something private I will say it, but I keep to myself and I respect the laws of the sport... This is too controversial, why am I going to say something that doesn't accomplish anything? If it's legal, they know what to do. If it's legal, there's nothing to say about it. It's legal.
Wow. Talk about implausible deniability.
Maybe Belfort's trying desperately to abide by that pesky Ninth Commandment, or maybe he's just afraid to make any kind of stance against MMA's rampant drug problem.
After all, his new training camp—the aptly-named "Blackzilians"—includes the likes of Alistair Overeem, Thiago Silva and Melvin Guillard, who have four positive drug tests between the lot of them.
Moreover, Belfort himself has tested positive for steroids (via MMA Weekly) in the past, something Bisping was all too keen to remind everyone (via MMA Mania). That's likely why Belfort danced around the subject with ESPN, saying that he is no one's judge or jury:
That's the problem with the rule, is that everyone is so radical. That's my opinion. I'm very faithful to the things I believe in and I'm working on myself. I don't like to judge. When you judge people, it sounds like you are God. We live in a freedom country. It is what it is.
But at the end of the day, this is a case where firm answers (or lies) would go a long way.
Yes, Belfort has always looked fast and powerful, especially at middleweight.
But with the question of TRT hanging in the air, it only prompts the eye to be a little more critical of the middleweight (and part-time light heavyweight) when he steps on the scale or into the Octagon.
"Did he always look that ripped?"
"Can you believe how fast he is?"
Just to be fair, it's very possible that Belfort looks stronger than ever because of that miraculous-sounding Dolce Diet.
Maybe it's that unshakable faith in Jesus Christ helping his fists fly straight and true, right smack into the back of his opponents' heads.
But until Belfort comes clean, there's always going to be that doubt.
Has clean living, a smarter diet, the Florida air, a new camp and saying extra prayers pushed "The Phenom" back into the elite ranks of this sport?
Or has he simply found a new way to augment his natural fighting ability?
Until someone eventually talks—or a positive test turns up for high testosterone—the answer will have to stay concealed with at least three people: Belfort, whoever manages his supplements and Jesus Christ.
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