As soon as it was announced that the Chris Weidman-Vitor Belfort title fight would be happening in Vegas, a question came to mind.
“What happens if Belfort beats Weidman for the title and then tests beyond the allowed levels for his TRT exemption?”
For the last year, Dana White has declared that there is no problem with Belfort and his TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) usage. He has said that Belfort is not abusing his exemption and thus will have no problems fighting anywhere.
“There’s no reason why Vitor Belfort can’t fight in Las Vegas or anywhere else in the United States,” said White (5:07 of the video). “Vitor Belfort has not been abusing TRT. In a million f--king years I would never let that happen…ever.”
“(If) they have a big fight that’s going to be Globo, they wanted Vitor,” said White to MMAJunkie.com. “So if they want Vitor, they’re going to get Vitor. Whoever they say they want, I’m going to try and make it happen.”
On an international level, Globo has indeed had a significant impact on the sport. Somewhere around 12 million people tuned in to watch Anderson Silva defeat Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153.
Now, with Weidman defeating Anderson Silva for a second time, a title fight between Weidman and Belfort has been scheduled for Las Vegas.
There was an incident where Belfort disputed failing a 2006 drug test in Nevada and came back positive for 4-hydroxytestosterone. He was suspended for nine months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. It was then that many fans began to doubt Belfort. But does that mean he is abusing TRT now?
While it is hard to argue that testing procedures in Brazil are as stringent as they are in Nevada, to assume that a man cannot find the proper motivation to make adjustments is terribly dismissive.
But it is also true that in competitive sports—where the spoils of victory are huge—we should understand that the pursuit of the fabled competitive edge can entice athletes to go right up to the line.
And where that line is drawn may be a lot different in Las Vegas than it is in Brazil.
So, what does happen if Belfort wins and his tests come back beyond the acceptable limits of his exemption?
To start, he will probably be stripped of his title.
Josh Barnett defeated Randy Couture at UFC 36 for the heavyweight title and tested positive for banned substances. As a result, he was stripped of his title and the belt became open. Couture would fight for the belt again at UFC 39, losing to Ricco Rodriguez.
But what is the impact of such a situation? Could it become the catalyst for an eventual ban of TRT usage in MMA?
Certainly, a great deal of extra attention to the topic would be invested by White, if for no other reason than he has been such a vocal defender of Belfort in this situation. But it should also be noted that the NSAC isn’t exactly a bastion of clarity and consistency when it comes to such matters.
Transparency regarding the rules and usage of TRT should have already happened by now. The NSAC, the UFC and every other MMA promotion should publish solid numbers that clearly defines what is acceptable and what is abuse.
In addition, all their numbers need to be identical in order to show a uniformed understanding of what is and is not acceptable when it comes to the use of such treatments.
TRT is not illegal. Nor is it, from a basic standpoint, immoral. There are a lot of men out there that honestly need this treatment. Yet when it is the life of a professional athlete (let alone a fighter), it becomes a matter of understandable interest.
Belfort has scored three very impressive stoppages in his last three bouts—via KO/TKO. We’re not just talking about his health, but the health of his opponents who deserve the extra effort it takes to make sure due process is being observed. They deserve this before the fight as well, not just after when the test results come back.
Obviously, this sounds like so much glue aimed at piecing back together that which has not fallen apart. However, if Belfort does win and further tests outside acceptable range, it is going to become a much larger issue than it has in the past.
Such a situation should not only result in Belfort being stripped of his title, but should also finalize the beginning of a new era of clearly defined regulation and stringent testing therein. It should no longer be a matter of optimism, but policy aimed at leveling the playing field at all turns.
Fighting has often been defined as a young mans sport, but they are all men in the cage and they all deserve the best and fairest chance at victory.
And that justifies any means toward an honest end.