Last Call – Vitor Belfort Can’t Escape the Critics
by Michael Stetts
There was an elephant in the room at the conclusion of UFC on FX 8—in fact—it had been there the entire evening in Brazil.
Instead of the highlight-reel spinning heel kick that sent former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold crashing to the canvas, it was Vitor’s testosterone replacement therapy that had the interest of the press.
Exemptions for TRT aren’t uncommon inside the sport of mixed martial arts. Some fighters and members of the media are heavily against it, while others are apathetic toward the topic.
But currently, TRT is 100% legal if an athletic commission grants you permission and you do not test above the designated legal level.
According to those rules, Belfort hasn’t done anything illegal or prohibited and has passed every recent pre or post-fight drug test he’s been administered.
Critics have been quick to raise their level of scrutiny regardless, citing noticeable changes in Belfort’s physical appearance, while pointing out that his last two fights took place in Brazil—where no athletic commission is present.
Throw in the fact that he once tested positive for steroids in 2006 while fighting in Pride, and the idea that his recent resurgence may be attributed to TRT begins to have legs.
And so, the theories and opinions are circulating about Belfort. Some suggest he is fighting in Brazil because he wouldn’t get a TRT exemption in the U.S. That may be true, as the Executive Director of the Nevada Athletic Commission Keith Kizer actually went on record saying he didn’t think Belfort would be able to obtain one in the U.S. Some also question if Vitor is, in fact, being tested properly or at all while fighting in Brazil, since there is no commission in place and the UFC acts as governing body.
Adding fuel to the fire was Belfort’s failure to acknowledge the media’s questions on the subject after his win over Luke Rockhold on May 18. He refused to answer MMAjunkie.com’s John Morgan’s question on TRT—and then asked if someone would beat up the reporter.
Not exactly a tactful move by Belfort, but he does have the right to be annoyed considering that several other fighters—Frank Mir, Chael Sonnen, Forrest Griffin, and Dan Henderson—have taken TRT and haven’t received the same amount of criticism.
Instead of passing judgement before he is found guilty of anything, we should be focusing on Belfort’s last two victories inside the Octagon. He has finished the No. 4-ranked and No. 5-ranked middleweights back-to-back, and in impressive fashion. There is something to be said for that. How could anyone suggest that Belfort doesn’t deserve a title shot against the winner of Anderson Silva vs. Chis Weidman?
He has earned it and has performed quite well, despite the opinion that he may have been aided synthetically—because at 36 years old, his skills shouldn’t be this sharp. He should be plateauing or slowing down.
Don’t think for a minute that the UFC won’t consider a title fight with him, even if it can’t happen in the states due to the aforementioned unlikelihood of a TRT exemption. The UFC is in the promotion business. If that fight can’t happen in the U.S., it’ll be on a Brazil card or elsewhere.
Belfort might not be above suspicion, but the UFC isn’t above having him fight for a title, wherever it may be. When it comes to knocking out opponents, however, Vitor Belfort is guilty as charged.