Saturday night was Vitor Belfort’s night. A night where he headlined his 10th event in the UFC, notched his 11th first round finish (which is more than any other fighter in UFC history), and faced his 10th former champion, this time from Strikeforce, in Luke Rockhold. But when the fight is over, as a fan we cannot enjoy that finish for what it was – which was amazing. We can’t sit back and enjoy it because Vitor has a TRT exemption and then muddies the water of his victory by saying things like “I’m stronger than ever.”
Really? You are getting prescribed doses of the drug in your body that builds muscle and you are stronger than ever? Congratulations!
At 36 years old we are seeing perhaps the best Vitor ever, but that Vitor who is 9-2 in his last 11 fights (the only two losses to Anderson and Jones) is really a caricature of himself. A jacked up frame on a clearly very skilled fighter with a killer instinct – you cannot connect that spinning heel kick with that sort of accuracy by chance. “I’m stronger than ever,” he says and in the post-fight press conference Vitor threatens to have an MMA journalist beat up for asking about TRT. Head scratching doesn’t even begin to cover what has become of Vitor’s career.
The subject of TRT or testosterone replacement therapy is one of constant controversy and why would it not be? A 36 year old fighter who was busted for being on steroids all of a sudden has “dangerously” low testosterone and is in need of TRT, sums up the problem. TRT helps cheaters recover from cheating. But the bigger issue is that the rampant use of steroids in MMA makes it nearly impossible (aside from those who get busted) to identify someone who might actually qualify as needing TRT for a medical condition that was not self-imposed.
So Saturday night when each of us watched one of the most spectacular knockouts in the sport’s history, that elation is shrouded by a cloud of TRT making it hard, if not impossible, to look past and enjoy. What is next for Vitor? The winner of Anderson vs. Weidman gets that short straw. If Anderson is victorious and has to take on Vitor again – if Vitor wins, beats the best fighter on the planet who is 3 years Vitor’s elder and never busted, let alone mentioned in the company of any performance enhancement abuse, how would history remember that moment? Would they marvel at Vitor’s best streak in a long time and how it was capped off with a title he took from the waist of the legendary Anderson Silva? Or would they mark it with an “asterisks” that he did indeed beat Anderson, but he did it using science so that his failing body would match his skill set?
Luke Rockhold has been nothing if not humble through all of this saying that “TRT had nothing to do with that kick.” Sure that may be factually correct and perhaps Luke’s hands down by his shorts might have made the target of his head easier to hit. The fact remains that the Vitor that stood across the Octagon on Saturday night against Luke Rockhold was not competing on a level playing field with his opponent and that kind of fantastic finish for a marquee victory leave me, as a fan, hollow.