Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) is one of the most controversial topics in MMA today, but one of the best-known users of the treatment, former two-division Pride champion, former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion and frequent UFC title contender, Dan Henderson, took a break from the anger-inspiring procedure before his fight at UFC 161.
This is not especially surprising.
Earlier this week, word came out from the Manitoba Combative Sports Commission (the governing body of MMA in Manitoba, Canada) that there were no Theraputic-Use Exemptions (TUE) handed out for the event.
A TUE is required for TRT use with North American athletic commissions, or the fighter is subject to fines and suspensions, which was quite surprising, as Henderson's use of TRT is well-documented, and has been receiving TUEs since 2007.
When asked about this, Henderson opened up to MMAJunkie.com.
“It didn't look like they would approve it, so I just quit taking testosterone,” he said. “I stopped about six to eight weeks out. I was told by my doctor that wouldn't be a problem at all. I wasn't using that much, anyway.”
Henderson was diagnosed with hypogonadism, commonly referred to as low testosterone, several years ago. This ailment can be caused by a number of factors, including age, head trauma and steroid use. At 42 years old, with 15 years of professional MMA experience under his belt, and with no history of PED use, most MMA fans accept the TRT use of “Hendo," a courtesy which has not been extended to the likes of Vitor Belfort or Chael Sonnen.
Still, Henderson found himself unlikely to receive a TUE in Winnipeg, saying, “they won't approve it unless you can prove a physical problem with your body that would explain why you need it...they weren't going to approve me, so I didn't even apply for it.”
While fans are quick to prop up TRT as a king-making wonder drug, other users like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Forrest Griffin and Frank Mir have had minimal success since undergoing treatment. Henderson off TRT looked very similar to Henderson on TRT: “I didn't feel too big of a difference...I was a little tired here and there, but that's not too different from all my other training camps.”
Henderson was also quick to brush off any allegation that TRT has a major impact on his performance.
“It's hard to tell, I never noticed a huge difference," he said. "I just know my doctor says it's healthier for me. I know I was getting sick less often when taking TRT and I seemed to have more energy...I work my ass off with or without it.” Henderson lost the fight to Rashad Evans via split decision, and did not look any better or worse than he did when he fought Lyoto Machida in February.
Ultimately, this development will likely do very little to change any perception of TRT use in MMA. Again, Henderson's sterling reputation, experience and age makes him one of the fighters that fans willingly accept as a “legitimate” TRT user.
Even so, this is a case that people can look back to when discussing this hot-button issue.