The two biggest stories to hit the MMA radar this past week have been Vitor Belfort being replaced at UFC 173 and the Nevada State Athletic Commission's vote to ban testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT) treatment.
While each vessel of news was delivered separately, the elements are directly linked to one another as NSAC's decision forced "The Phenom" to shut down his TRT program and was the catalyst for Lyoto Machida replacing him in a scheduled bout with champion Chris Weidman at UFC 173 on May 24.
News of the shake-up was announced late Thursday night on Fox Sports Live (h/t Matt Erickson of MMA Junkie) and immediately sent a shock wave through the MMA community.
The days that followed the announcement were filled with curious happenings, as the Brazilian knockout artist took to his Facebook page (h/t Dann Stupp of MMA Junkie) to dispute the statement shown on Fox Sports 1. The 36-year-old was so upset with the statement's implication, he voluntarily withdrew from the fight and attempted to set the record straight.
The former two-divisional title challenger pointed to the UFC in his post saying it was the promotion that pulled him out of the bout due to an appropriate amount of time for him to meet the new rule requirements of NSAC. He also added that he expected to face the winner of Weidman versus Machida later in the year.
Belfort continued the push to explain his current situation on Saturday when he posted a statement from his doctor on his Instagram (h/t Guilherme Cruz of SB Nation's MMA Fighting). The post stated his need for an adjustment period as he shifts from training with a TRT program to working without the assistance of the treatment.
Vitor Belfort's TRT have always been a medical decision aimed to health improvement. The same treatment strategy is available and widely prescribed to every patient who makes the decision to live better and healthier life through their natural ageing process.
Any performance advantage results not from the use of medication, but from the athlete's unshaken discipline and absolute dedication to an extremely demanding training routine, impeccable nutrition and resting. In the name of his passion for the sport and dedication to his fans, my patient made the decision to interrupt his health treatment.
We are going to need 90 days to adapt Vitor's treatment and nutrition in order to support his extremely hard training routine – This is what makes Vitor one of the best fighters on UFC history and the most dedicated athlete I've ever had the honor to work with.
While there have been a number of fighters who have been granted therapeutic usage exemptions (TUE), Belfort has been the athlete most often linked to the controversial program. TRT has been a hot-button issue in its own right, and the therapy program has come under heavy scrutiny throughout every step of Belfort's impressive career resurgence in 2013.
The former UFC light-heavyweight tournament winner notched three highlight-reel knockout victories last year as he crumbled Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson, respectively. The strength of that run earned Belfort another shot at the middleweight title, but NSAC's ban has put the Blackzilian's championship dreams on the back burner for the time being.
Duane Finley is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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