"I did all the tests that Nevada requires," Belfort told MMAFighting.com’s Guilherme Cruz over the weekend, with all the panache of a man who refuses to comprehend the nature of his own position. "I did it on my own, and I passed them all. There is nothing in my system anymore. God has blessed me. I’m ready now, and I’m waiting."
Except, not so fast.
NAC chairman Francisco Aguilar told Fox Sports' Mike Chiappetta on Wednesday that his office hasn’t heard from Belfort, and that there are still some significant regulatory hurdles that need to be cleared before the embattled former UFC champ is allowed back in the cage.
"We haven't had any conversations with him," Aguilar said.
One such hurdle will be the matter of the surprise drug test the NAC conducted on Belfort three months ago, while the fighter was in Las Vegas to attend the World MMA Awards. The results of that test came back soon after the commission voted to ban TRT but weren’t publicized following Belfort's abrupt decision not to apply for a license to fight Chris Weidman as scheduled.
Aguilar also confirmed to Chiappetta that the next “probable step” for Belfort would be to submit an application to be licensed and appear in front of a full commission hearing. At that point, that drug test will be at issue and the results could be made public.
Let’s all say it together: Interesting.
In response to initial media inquiries about the test, Belfort attorney Neal Tabachnick said the results were “not relevant,” according to MMA Fighting.com’s Ariel Helwani. It was pretty much the worst possible way to make Belfort look like he’d passed, but so far it’s been all we’ve heard on the subject.
Amid reports that transitioning off TRT would be a long, arduous and potentially dangerous process, the fighter himself has kept a low profile. UFC President Dana White has made multiple oblique references to Belfort being “banned” even as fellow TRT users like Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson have carried on with their careers seemingly with ease.
Henderson will fight Daniel Cormier at UFC 173 (the event where Belfort was initially scheduled to appear), and Sonnen is targeted for a bout against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 175.
White consistently and vehemently defended the 37-year-old Belfort during his march to middleweight No. 1 contender status, scoring three consecutive head-kick knockouts in his native Brazil in 2013. The UFC president insisted the fight company was “testing the s--t out” of the fighter and routinely asserted there was “no reason” why Belfort couldn’t return to the U.S. to fight for the title.
“Vitor Belfort has not been abusing TRT,” White said during a media scrum last November. “In a million f---ing years I would never let that happen, ever."
In the wake of the TRT ban, White’s tune has become a lot less supportive. He hailed the NAC’s move as a positive step for MMA and has long said the UFC will follow the commission on matters of regulation. That means if Belfort wants to fight in the Octagon again anywhere, any time soon, he’ll have to get off testosterone and get right with the NAC.
“He's got a lot of work to do,” White said after Belfort’s most recent claims, via Bleacher Report's John Heinis. “He's fooling himself if that's what he really thinks, he took a couple of home tests and he's ready to roll.”
It’s all very murky, but at this point Belfort’s only way forward as a UFC fighter appears to be to reapply for a license in Nevada, show up and take his medicine (pun fully intended).
If that February drug test came back clean, it will be wonderful news, though then we’ll all have to wonder why he didn’t simply release the results immediately. Had Belfort passed a drug test less than a month after the NAC banned TRT, that seems like information he would want us all to know.
If Belfort failed that test, all bets may be off. There’s no telling how the NAC could respond, though a suspension would certainly be warranted. The UFC will also have to pick a path of action, as a positive test could cast widespread doubt on White’s claims that the company was keeping close tabs on Belfort’s drug use while he was laying waste to the rest of the middleweight division.
Either way, those test results could soon be a lot more relevant than Belfort's people seem to want them to be. Once they are, we’ll finally know exactly how truly blessed, ready and waiting he is to return.