UFC: When It Comes to TRT, Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort Are the Same Creature

Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2014

Dan Henderson during his UFC 157 light heavyweight mixed martial arts match against Lyoto Machida in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Did you see that knockout?! That guy might be dead.

He's gotta be dead.

That's it for MMA in Brazil, they'll never let it happen again. Too bad they pumped all that money into putting a commission in place. Politicians and interest groups will be all over them now; that's it for the sport as they know it. You can't just have fools getting killed in the cage like that and think it's going to fly these days.

Hang on, he's getting up! He's not dead! That's great news! He's just going to end up on a highlight reel, forever remembered for being blasted into another dimension on a Fight Night.

Man, you knock someone out like that and you gotta be next for the title. It's just too impressive to ignore. That's a bad man right there.

You know what's interesting about the opening above? It applies to Vitor Belfort, resurgent middleweight and occasional light heavyweight who provided some of the craziest highlights in MMA history in 2013.

Or at least it would if he wasn't being smeared into the sport's foremost pariah thanks to that resurgence being linked to testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).

Here's the other interesting thing about that opening: After his explosive win this past weekend over Shogun Rua it also applies to Dan Henderson, a TRT user that fans love for his ability to eradicate legends with a single right hand. Also, a TRT user who sees none of the backlash for his use of the questionable therapeutic technique.

He receives all of the praise for the violence he inflicts and none of the vitriol. He's not a pariah on the level of the synthetic devil that is Belfort. Actually he's not a pariah at all.

Why is that?

Some of it is probably his ability to produce highlights, which tend to erase any thoughts of how they're produced if they're enjoyable enough to watch. In theory that applies to Belfort too, though.

It could also be that, until his stunning knockout of Rua, he'd lost three straight and was getting handily worked over again before landing his patented right hand. It's easier to pay negative attention to a guy winning with TRT-infused wheel kicks than it is to harp on a guy losing uninspiring decisions.

There's also the influence that America has on the sport, both in terms of producing athletes and producing fans. Many fans love Henderson for being the picture of Americana, the blue collared former Olympian who reached the highest points of MMA thanks to his workmanlike approach. Belfort doesn't exactly receive the same reverence.

And of course, Henderson has handled his TRT use in typically understated fashion. He was doing it long before people realized it was a real problem in the sport, but he kept it to himself until he absolutely had to. Belfort elected for shrouds of mystery, then for shrouds of belligerence, then for the shroud of outright leaving North America to ply his trade.

But you know something? At the end of the day, wrong is wrong. Henderson is more popular and more tactful, but he's no less of a tainted figure when it comes to TRT. He didn't get the results that Belfort did, but that doesn't mean he should get to wash his hands of it entirely.

The fact is that Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort are the exact same creature at the end of the day: An MMA legend using a questionable tool to prolong their relevance. In a game predicated almost entirely on who can inflict more damage on who during a testosterone-fuelled exchange of physical aggression, both men elected to let science serve as a third-party influence in combat.

While the rulebook didn't make it illegal until recently, there's no arguing that it was always amoral and popularity or how a fighter handled the publicity of being a TRT user doesn't change a thing about that.

It's time we all faced that fact, whether we want to or not.