Vitor Belfort emerged victorious Saturday night when he took out Strikeforce’s last middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in the main event of UFC on FX 8. Using an often seen but rarely effective spinning heel-kick, Belfort connected flush on Rockhold’s chin then finished him on the ground in typical Belfort-blitzkrieg fashion. In all of Belfort’s victories in this UFC stint, only one has been by submission, the rest have all been knockouts. Now this is something that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering who we’re talking about. Out of 23 wins, he has 16 knockouts, not to mention he started his career with four straight KO wins. That was then, and this is now. So what has changed since then? Besides an entire decade, Belfort has been on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) for some time now.
He turned 36 early last month and in the fight game, he’s not exactly a spring chicken. Perhaps Belfort felt like he had a good enough reason to turn to TRT and for all we know, he probably did. But in doing so, he may have just tainted every victory from here on out, including his last several wins. His last two opponents, Michael Bisping and Rockhold, have spoken openly about their disapproval of Belfort’s use of TRT, calling it everything from “cheating” to “bullshit” and that Belfort is “lacking something”. It should come as no surprise that Belfort has made himself a target not only for critics, but basically to every opponent on the way to a second chance at the UFC middleweight title. Fair or not, Belfort has, for all intents and purposes, tainted every victory since being on TRT – and he’s not getting any younger, which means he’ll most likely continue using TRT until the day he retires.
As long as Belfort continues to TRT, every opponent will use that as a sticking point on whether or not to accept the fight, and rightfully so. “The Phenom” tested positive for a banned substance back in 2006 and now he’s using testosterone. Realistically Belfort’s image has been tarnished and his current use of the hormone isn’t helping matters. Every opponent from here on out will think that Belfort is using TRT to gain an unfair advantage. His TRT was approved in his last two bouts, both of which occurred in Brazil. Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic commission Keith Kizer has said that it is unlikely that Belfort would be approved for therapeutic-use exemption due to his previous failed test, and because of that, it is likely that Belfort will continue to fight in Brazil, if not another state where he can be approved for therapeutic-use exemption.
Fair or not, in the back of all our minds, fighters and fight fans alike, Belfort’s use of TRT will always be questioned, especially since Belfort often avoids the topic like he has in recent interviews. It’s unfortunate, but as long as Belfort continues to use TRT, his victories will continue to be tainted.
PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports