Well, he's going through with it.
Vitor Belfort is going to apply for a therapeutic use exemption when he fights Chris Weidman in Las Vegas this summer.
It's an interesting choice from an interesting guy who's had an interesting run in the UFC over the past few years. Since he returned in 2009, he's 6-2 and hasn't needed the judges once, with his only losses coming in championship fights to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones.
Wading through his oft-ludicrous statements involving dinosaurs and lions, the fact is that Belfort has, on paper, finally put it all together. He's always been the owner of considerable skill, but he's getting things done consistently in this most recent stint.
Beyond those he's mentioned in his bizarre ramblings, though, there is a third beast in the room when discussing his rise at age 36: the elephant of testosterone replacement therapy.
|Vitor Belfort's Rise to Contention|
|Dan Henderson||Nov. 9, 2013||UFN 32||TKO1||1:17|
|Luke Rockhold||May 18, 2013||UFC on FX 8||TKO1||2:32|
|Michael Bisping||Jan. 19, 2013||UFC on FX 7||TKO2||1:27|
TRT has become a story in recent years because it feels like half the guys stepping into the cage are suffering from grapes so shriveled that a weekly blast of synthetic T is the only way to keep them going. That they all compete in the most testosterone-fueled sport in existence is purely coincidence.
Sure. And dinosaurs and lions might fly out of my butt.
Generally questionable merit of TRT aside, Belfort has been one of the guys who has felt the most heat for it. His resurgence, punctuated by head-kick KOs of three straight top contenders—all in Brazil, away from the clamoring tentacles of credible athletic commissions—has drawn eyes in a way that unspectacular TRTers like Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson haven't.
People see Belfort, clad in a mohawk-mullet and wheel-kicking people to a living death, and they have questions. He looks bigger at 185 than he did as a young heavyweight, veins like fire hoses running down his arms and a back broad enough to show drive-in movies on.
Surely this man isn't the product of simple hard work? Good genes can't be responsible for this, can they?
That's an answer no one other than Belfort has for sure, and hurling about accusations is a dangerous game. Still, it's hard to take his renaissance at face value with so much hiding in the shadows surrounding it.
That's why his decision to apply for a TUE when he fights Weidman in Las Vegas is so interesting. It doesn't seem likely he'll get it, and most anyone in the sport would tell you as much, but he's all-in anyway for a host of reasons.
If he didn't apply, he'd be essentially admitting some level of culpability and questionable merit in his run of KOs. Now that he is, he's essentially admitting that he can't perform the way he wants to without flipping the proverbial switch to be pumped up like Bane.
He was damned if he did and damned if he didn't, and it was all of his own doing. Truthfully, there was no good way to pursue this for Belfort, no easy road to getting what he wants with any sort of clear name.
It's something of a parable for the whole TRT fiasco in MMA, actually, a pandemic that's spread like wildfire to any guy in his mid-30s looking to squeeze out a little more juice (so to speak).
Regulators do little about it, silently admitting they're into seeing science projects try to kill regular men in a prizefight, or they do something about it and admit they might not have given the problem the appropriate attention from the outset.
Again, damned if they do and damned if they don't, and it's through their own doing.
In all of it, though, you have Belfort. A top contender at an age when most men have resigned to driving the kids to soccer practice, looking more vicious than he ever did when he was in his athletic prime.
As is always the case when TRT is a story, there are more questions than answers. It becomes a case of wondering whether or not this is the time that the sport gets it right, but also what "right" even is anymore.
It might not be fair to start making a stand with Belfort before the biggest fight of his life, but it's hard to argue in his favor given his history. He's spent the past two years turning back the clock; could be that time—and all that entails—has finally caught up with him.