I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this UFC on FX card that’s coming up on Saturday night from Brazil.
More specifically, I've been thinking about the main event.
I find myself considering it more than I normally do, actually. I think about fight cards a lot because, well, that’s my job. But with this card, I guess I just feel that it's not the best, so I haven't looked into the overall fight listing all that much.
That will change later today when I begin to dive into heavier research for Saturday’s coverage, but not right now. Right now, I'm thinking about MMA and cheating and dirty sports.
More specifically, I’m thinking about how unfair it is that Belfort has essentially been allowed to cheat by taking testosterone replacement therapy during his fight camp.
We can pair the word “testosterone” with “replacement therapy” all we want, but the fact remains that folks who are prescribed TRT by “physicians” are each cheaters in their own way. If you legitimately need testosterone when you are in your 30s, you are either currently cheating or you have cheated in the past and damaged your body by taking copious amounts of steroids.
It’s one or the other. You didn’t spend your entire adult life competing as a high-level professional athlete and then suddenly wake up one day with a damaged endocrine system, in sudden need of an influx of testosterone to live your daily life.
There will never be a day when I'll believe that silly, sorry excuse. You're either trying to cheat now or you cheated in the past. Simple as that.
And, yes, I believe Belfort falls into one of those two categories. His positive test for 4-hydroxytestosterone after his PRIDE 32 bout with Dan Henderson shows us that he's been willing to subvert the system in the past and it also shows that the idea of him damaging his body through systematic steroid usage isn't all that far-fetched.
Back to my original point: I've been thinking about this, and how unfair it is that Rockhold has to compete against someone who has legally been allowed to enhance his own performance during training camp.
He's the kid trying to do things the right way, or at least he seems to be, and he's about to enter the cage for the most important fight of his entire life. It's his UFC debut, in the main event of a televised FX card. It's not the same deal that Ronda Rousey or Gilbert Melendez got, but it's not that bad, either.
A win could put him in contention for Anderson Silva's belt. It would cement his belief that he's already one of the best in the world and just hasn't been given a chance to prove it because, well, he was fighting in Strikeforce's depleted middleweight division instead of the UFC.
A loss would send him tumbling down the rankings.
People will talk about how he was never that good anyway and they'll surmise that the Strikeforce middleweights were always inferior to the UFC's middleweights, never mind the fact that Rockhold and Tim Kennedy and Ronaldo Souza are very good and should never have their careers judged based on what they do in their respective UFC debuts.
And despite that, despite the importance of it all, Rockhold has to go in the cage with a fighter who is being allowed to cheat, who was given a leg up during his training camp.
It's not fair, but Rockhold doesn't care. In several conversations with him over the past two or three months, Rockhold has told me that he doesn't care if Belfort just uses testosterone solely during training camp or if he goes into the cage juiced to the gills like a 1990s baseball slugger.
He says the end result will be the same. He's going to beat him regardless. Rockhold is the good guy, but he'll be the bad guy on Saturday night.
He's going into Brazil—where Belfort isn't all that popular, but they'll root for him anyway because Brazilians are fiercely supportive of anything Brazilian versus American—and he's trying to win the most important fight of his life against a very good technical fighter who probably had a great training camp that was supplemented with the best kind of pick-me-up on a daily or weekly basis.
In a just world, Rockhold would beat Belfort and prove that a clean fighter can still compete, that he can still reach the highest levels without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs. In a just world, all of the dirty fighters would lose to the clean ones.
I don't know if that'll be the result, but it seems like the just result. And this is not to say that all fighters or the fighters who become champions are dirty, because that's not the case. Or at least I don't think it is. I have no idea of knowing for sure.
But maybe Rockhold, who has been vocal about Belfort's TRT use, will be a catalyst for change in mixed martial arts.