Belfort's next fight needs to be in U.S.

May, 19, 2013
5/19/13
12:59
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Vitor Belfort’s knockout win over Luke Rockhold on Saturday in Jaragua Do Sul, Brazil, was almost a perfect story.

The “old dinosaur,” as Belfort calls himself, tamed the “young lion” with a spinning wheel kick in the first round that was really more fine art than it was athletic feat. All professional sports move quickly, but none are as unforgiving as a fight. It’s one of the best characteristics of martial arts, and it was on display Saturday.

That kick, though, was tainted before Belfort ever threw it -- and you’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise. After one of the best knockouts of the year, Twitter exploded with three letters: TRT.

Belfort became so incensed at the postfight news conference by questions regarding his testosterone-replacement therapy, he refused to give answers completely.

The fact that a highlight-reel knockout would produce that sort of response is really quite sad when you think about it, and it leaves no doubt about one thing: Belfort’s next fight has to be in the United States.

Belfort is 36 years old. He complains of a naturally low level of testosterone. The newly founded athletic commission in Brazil, which oversaw its first event this year, has approved Belfort’s use of testosterone-replacement therapy.

He has not received that approval in the U.S., and according to Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Belfort would likely have trouble earning a use exemption for TRT based on a positive test for anabolic steroids he submitted after a fight in 2006.

Testosterone-replacement therapy does not teach you how to land a gravity-defying spinning back kick like the one Belfort threw on Saturday. It does, however, increase a fighter’s ability to recover, among other things, while preparing for a bout.

The only way the UFC can ensure Belfort’s next performance isn’t questioned is to force him to go through the process of acquiring a therapeutic use exemption for TRT in its home base of Nevada.

That really shouldn’t be a problem for UFC president Dana White, who took a harsh stance on TRT this year. White has even said he’d like to see athletic commissions ban it entirely -- a ban he doesn’t feel the UFC should have to implement itself.

White publicly promised the UFC would "brutally" test any fighter who receives an exemption in order to prevent abuse.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner told ESPN.com last week the UFC did not test Belfort during his recent training camp, deferring that responsibility to the Brazilian commission.

“The Brazilian commission is handling this fight and all subsequent fights in Brazil,” Ratner said. “They have tested Vitor, who is within legal limits, and will be testing him at the fights.”

Turning Belfort’s TRT exemption completely over to a Brazilian commission handling its second UFC event is a far cry from “testing the living s---“ out of him -- which is what White promised to do, verbatim, earlier this year.

There’s no guarantee Belfort would be denied an exemption in Las Vegas despite the comments made by Kizer. Should he provide medical documentation that proves his natural testosterone levels are low, he would still face the hurdle of the positive steroid test in 2006 -- but it’s possible he would be approved.

Were that to happen, fine. If the NSAC approved it and took charge of monitoring Belfort’s levels, it would be a fairly satisfactory result.

There would still be those against Belfort’s use exemption entirely, but at least it will have gone through the proper channels at that point.

The UFC needs to address this issue in Belfort’s next fight. Seeing an old dinosaur turn back the clock in front of a frenzied Brazilian crowd is terrific, but if we’re all left wondering whether Belfort is truly an inspiring story or merely a product of modern science, doesn’t it take away from the appeal of watching at all?

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