(Meanwhile in the Kingdom of Heaven, God continued to watch NASCAR. Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)
Four months after his ill-fated light-heavyweight title bid against Jon Jones, Vitor Belfort will be returning to the UFC middleweight division on January 19th to face Michael Bisping in the main event of UFC on FX 7. Though he’s well into his 16th year of professional MMA competition, Belfort insists that he’s never felt so good in his entire life. Obviously, that particular fighter-cliche has become so overused that it’s virtually meaningless. But if the Phenom is telling the truth, maybe there’s a reason for it. And so, ESPN’s Brett Okamoto pointed out the elephant in the room during an interview published yesterday. Hilarity ensued:
ESPN: Some fighters in their 30s have been diagnosed with low testosterone levels and received exemptions to use testosterone replacement therapy [TRT]. Have you ever applied for TRT or would you consider it?
Belfort: If a question is private, I have the choice to answer or not. If I make it public, it’s not private anymore. If I want to say something private I will say it, but I keep to myself and I respect the laws of the sport. Whatever the organization, whatever the law — they know what to do. This is too controversial, why am I going to say something that doesn’t accomplish anything? If it’s legal, they know what to do. If it’s legal, there’s nothing to say about it. It’s legal.
ESPN: As you mention, TRT is legal for fighters who qualify for it. Do you believe it’s getting a bad image in the sport? Fans are too quick to judge fighters who use it?
Belfort: It’s hard. Like, you’re either a Republican or Democrat. Who is right? I think it’s this: The truth is always in the middle. Of course, some things are non-negotiable. I think in life, you just need to find a balance. That’s the problem with the rule, is that everyone is so radical. That’s my opinion. I’m very faithful to the things I believe in and I’m working on myself. I don’t like to judge. When you judge people, it sounds like you are God. We live in a freedom country. It is what it is.
Wow. Not since Tito Ortiz‘s epic dodge about dating a porn star has a fighter’s vague non-answer to an interview question said so much more than a normal answer ever could. If Belfort didn’t use testosterone replacement therapy, he’d probably say something like “no way, I don’t need that kinda stuff, fank you Jesus.” Instead, we get a lesson in privacy, politics, and freedom that sounds pretty damn incriminating on its face.
“Incriminating” is perhaps not the best word to use here, since we’re not talking about a banned substance or anything illegal — we’re talking about a performance enhancer that’s completely acceptable to use as long as you have an exemption for it. Of course, MMA fighters aren’t always quick to admit they’re on testosterone therapy, because of the stigma attached. And why wouldn’t there be a stigma attached? TRT is a chemical treatment that’s intended to make aging (or just “deficient”) fighters stronger and more energetic that they normally would be. Testosterone might be natural, but the act of medically replacing it in your body? Not so much. And everybody knows it, which is why TRT is often a touchy subject even among those who are allowed to use it.
So we can understand why Belfort might be playing this one close to the vest. But if you assumed his incredible longevity is simply the result of a clean diet and daily prayer, you should probably take your head out of the sand.