In a way, Dan Henderson is something of a pioneer.
Henderson was one of the first-ever mixed martial artists to use testosterone replacement therapy. These days, TRT is a hot topic among journalists, hardcore fans and the fighters themselves. But it was an unknown commodity when Henderson began undergoing the treatment.
Today? That's a different story. We hear new stories every few months about new fighter requesting an exemption. It's the go-to treatment for people who either want to gain an edge or, in very few cases, maintain some semblance of competitive balance as they age.
Henderson and TRT are back in the news this week, mostly because he's agreed to a fight with Vitor Belfort that would, providing all contracts are signed, headline a Nov. 9 event in Brazil. The bout will be the fourth of the last five Belfort bouts to take place in Brazil, leading many fans to speculate that the UFC is exclusively booking the Brazilian in his home country so as to avoid what could be a messy process of getting him licensed in Nevada.
Henderson did not use TRT for his June fight in Canada, a loss to Lyoto Machida. Henderson told MMAjunkie.com at the time that he discontinued usage because he believed the commission would not approve his request:
It didn't look like they would approve it, so I just quit taking the testosterone. 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.
Do you believe fighters should be able to use TRT?
I never noticed a huge difference. 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.
Dr. Marcio Tannure, the medical director of the Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission, today told MMAFighting.com that Henderson would be able to apply for an exemption to use TRT for the Belfort fight:
I wasn’t officially informed about this fight, but if (Henderson) wants to use the TRT exemption in Brazil he will need to send us all the exams so we can analyze it. ... I know he has the authorization to use that in the US, but this is a different commission, so we need to see all the exams.
With Vitor, we did blood tests every month to guarantee his levels are ok, and then we tested him before and after the fights (with Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold). ... (Henderson) will be tested at least three times before the fight, then we will test him again after the fight.
If finalized, the bout between Henderson and Belfort will be one of the few in mixed martial arts history to feature two competing fighters who are both on testosterone replacement therapy.