Wow. What a silly day of announcements for the silly sport of mixed martial arts.
Just yesterday the number one thing that made fight fans squirm, Testosterone Replacement Therapy(TRT), has been banned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. On the surface that seemed like great news. By some sort of wizardry the most controversial topic in MMA all of a sudden disappeared.
However, now we know why it happened, when it happened.
On Fox Sports 1 at 1 AM EST yesterday, it was announced that the face of TRT, Vitor Belfort, is now out of his fight at UFC 173. Yes, the guy in every picture from every article on TRT is now out of his title fight against Chris Weidman. The reason? They’re claiming that Belfort willingly withdrew from the fight because he needed time to get used to fighting without TRT… I just don’t know what to say about that.
Lyoto Machida is now stepping in to fight the middleweight championship. Cool.
I guess before the UFC sort of ruined their poker face, I was going to applaud them and the NSAC, but this added announcement is premeditated to an obnoxious degree. Why would a fighter choose to forgo his title fight opportunity especially Vitor Belfort of all people? Quick reminder, this is the Belfort that is back in title contention after lopping off the heads of three potential contenders in 2013. The three big wins were all due to head kick KO’s against Michael Bisping, Dan Henderson(a TRT user himself), and Luke Rockhold.
Well, the speculation is that Belfort may have failed his well-publicized random drug test that happened in the hotel lobby right before the MMA Awards in Las Vegas. The results of that test hasn’t been announced, and the reason is probably a little too obvious. Once again, it’s all speculation, but a fighter choosing to forgo an opportunity of this importance is just too implausible. There has to be something that forced his hand here, but since he wasn’t yet licensed to fight in Nevada there’s no reason for those test results to be released. So we’re probably not going to find out.
As for the awfully convenient news that is TRT being banned in Nevada, the UFC applauded the NSAC’s decision with a statement of their own.
“The Ultimate Fighting Championship fully supports the decision made today by the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding the immediate termination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). We believe our athletes should compete based on their natural abilities and on an even playing field. We also intend to honor this ruling in international markets where, due to a lack of governing bodies, the UFC oversees regulatory efforts for our live events. We encourage all athletic commissions to adopt this ruling.” – UFC President Dana White.
On a more positive note, this decision has huge implications for the sport. Current users and future applicants can no longer get TRT. The language around it from this point on is disambiguated. It’s rightfully illegal.
In turn, that means that several of the UFC’s well-known athletes that were using are now sh*t out of luck. Meat titan TRT users like Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen can no longer claim hypogonadism while getting absolutely unapologetically shredded for their fights. That’s a good thing.
Another more positive outcome to all this is that the UFC is not going to support TRT when they’re on unregulated foreign soil.
So as it would seem, this tidies up quite a few issues for the UFC. Imagine if Belfort could have taken the title from Weidman when so many consider his late career renaissance to be partially, if not mostly, due to his TRT use. Imagine the damage that would do to the UFC’s image to have the poster child of what’s considered legal steroid use being paraded around as the middleweight champion. At least that disaster being averted is a small win for MMA fans.
So I guess I’m skeptically optimistic about the news. On the heels of the issue getting more national attention from an excellent article by Mike Fish for ESPN’s Outside the Lines, all of a sudden TRT is actually gone. The controversy that everyone has been griping about, from Fight Opinion’s Zach Arnold beating the drum against it for years to MMA Fighting’s Luke Thomas rightfully calling it out as a “giant scam,” TRT in Nevada combat sports, and the UFC, is history.