I never gave up fighting in UFC 173 and never mentioned it. The UFC decided to put another opponent in my place because I didn't have time to fit the new rules of the NSAC. According to the UFC, I will face the winner of Weidman vs. Lyoto within the new regulations of all the athletic commissions.
The "new regulations" that Belfort mentions refer, of course, to the Nevada State Athletic Commission's surprise decision Thursday to ban testosterone replacement therapy, or TRT, from combat sports, per Bleacher Report's Jeremy Botter.
Belfort is one of a handful of fighters who openly sought and received therapeutic use exemptions for TRT. He failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs in 2006.
Early Friday morning on Fox Sports Live, per a report from Botter, a statement purportedly from Belfort announced he would withdraw from UFC 173 because of the TRT ban, and he added that he would return to competition at a later date and without TRT.
"Given the time constraints involved between now and my proposed next bout in May, I have determined not to apply for a license to fight in Nevada at this time," Belfort stated on Fox Sports Live.
However, the Facebook post appears to contradict the Fox Sports Live statement attributed to Belfort, which seemed to suggest that he was willingly withdrawing from the fight. The exact origin of the statement is unclear.
I asked Fox and the UFC to confirm where yesterday's statement "from Vitor" originated. So...we'll see what happens— Brent Brookhouse (@brentbrookhouse) February 28, 2014
For the moment, it appears champion Chris Weidman will indeed be defending his title in May against Lyoto Machida, a former UFC light heavyweight champion who is 2-0 after dropping down to the middleweight division.
The title bout is expected to serve as the main event for UFC 173, which is scheduled to take place May 24 in Las Vegas.
At the moment, it is unclear what will happen to Belfort. No UFC official has indicated when Belfort will fight again, despite the fighter's assertions Friday morning. He is riding a three-fight winning streak.
With or without TRT, he is a formidable opponent for anyone.
After Thursday's decision by the NSAC, UFC president Dana White hailed the ban and indicated the UFC would follow the NSAC's lead in circumstances when the UFC conducts its own testing, according to a report from Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting:
"The Ultimate Fighting Championship fully supports the decision made today by the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding the immediate termination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)," White stated in a press release. "...We also intend to honor this ruling in international markets where, due to a lack of governing bodies, the UFC oversees regulatory efforts for our live events. We encourage all athletic commissions to adopt this ruling."
UPDATE: Adding further confusion and intrigue to the equation is the fact that the results of a surprise drug test Belfort took in early February will now not be made public, by virtue of the fact that Belfort will no longer apply for a fighting license for UFC 173. MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani submitted a request to view the results, but the request was denied.