Vitor Belfort has looked better than ever in his recent UFC run, carving a 3-1 trench through the middleweight division and nearly defeating light heavyweight champion Jon Jones via armbar submission.
But his most recent win—and possibly his previous ones—come with a large, TRT-shaped asterisk.
Specifically, Belfort apparently received a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), according to a report from MMA Junkie's John Morgan:
Additionally, Vitor Belfort was on TRT for the fight. — John Morgan (@MMAjunkieJohn) February 6, 2013
It begs the question: Is that why Belfort wasn't offered a title shot against Anderson Silva?
That would actually make a lot of sense, as Belfort stepped into the UFC on FX 7 weigh-ins looking in suspiciously better shape than he had just two years ago at UFC 126 in February 2011.
In his prime, Belfort was a physical specimen of a killer who simply faltered against true elites of the sport. But with his spectacular head-kick KO of Michael Bisping and near-win against Jones, "The Phenom" is possibly more threatening than ever.
Maybe this new TRT-fueled Belfort could even defeat the likes of Anderson Silva.
But the fact is, that bridge looks pretty much burnt.
Although Silva's own front kick KO defeat of Belfort could be reason enough for the UFC to not grant a rematch, Belfort's TRT use doesn't seem like it helps his case much either.
Is Anderson Silva being protected?
As one of Brazil's biggest stars and a still-growing pay-per-view draw, the world's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter remains a big investment for Dana White and the UFC—so much to the point that the company desperately wants superfights for "The Spider" against Jones or Georges St-Pierre.
Any Silva vs. Jones or Silva vs. GSP card would be a record UFC event, both in attendance and PPV revenue, which could even fill an entire football stadium.
But if Silva rematched the lab-engineered Belfort and lost, all those matchups go away in a puff of smoke.
What's also good for this case is that Belfort has already lost to Silva, so that rematch can be swept under the rug.
Of course, Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson, two noted TRT users themselves, were also given title shots against Jones. But perhaps it's fair to assume that Belfort is far more dangerous than either of them at this point in all their respective careers.
If that's the case, it's probably better to throw someone relatively green like Chris Weidman at the champion and hope that Silva shows off his usual brilliance with a stunning victory.
Belfort's suspected TRT use had been a key issue in the buildup to his main event title eliminator in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The story became larger after ESPN writer Brett Okamoto was sidestepped after directly asking Belfort whether or not he was using it.
Now, we all know the truth.
Moreover, we all know for certain what seemed pretty clear before—Belfort's faith alone isn't the only thing pushing him to new heights.