Vitor Belfort's latest win fuels testosterone debate, which may be a good thing
Right off we might as well talk about it.
Why not? We're thinking about it, whether we want to admit it or not. How could we not be, when it's right there staring us in the face?
Vitor Belfort pulls off an amazing spinning heel kick against Luke Rockhold at UFC on FX 8, then declares that he's "stronger than ever," and it's like he's begging us to talk about it. On the broadcast we hear references to his impressive career turnaround, and it feels like they're hinting at the things they can't or don't dare say.
Or maybe they aren't. At least not intentionally. Maybe it's a Freudian slip, or no slip at all. Maybe it's just that when you get an elephant this big in a room this small – and when that elephant keeps stomping on the heads of all who come near it – anything you say feels like it's either directed right at the damn thing or else conspicuously avoiding mention of it.
That's where we are with Belfort and his testosterone usage. Tucked away in Brazil, where the commission is brand new and therapeutic-use exemptions for former steroid cheats are apparently no problem, he faces a problem he doesn't seem to want to acknowledge. The more fights he wins and the more highlight-reel finishes he stacks up, the more he stokes a fire that he'd rather we just ignore.
The thing is, we probably would ignore it if we could. We'd rather watch and enjoy and be awed by these finishes that look like something out of a video game. But knowing what we know, it's impossible to come away from Belfort's recent performances without wondering how much of what we just saw came from him and how much came from a syringe.
And honestly, that's what really sucks about testosterone use in MMA – for the fans, anyway. The fighters, sure, they have to worry about the concussions and the competitive imbalance and all the rest of it. Those of us on the couch get stuck with the nagging doubt and bitter aftertaste. Guys like Belfort are making this sport hard for a thinking fan to relax and enjoy.
We see him pull off some fantastic move and we can't appreciate it for what it is. We just can't. Unless we want to become the willing marks in this little PED carnival, we have to ask whether he could have done that without a steady injection of steroids (and for the last time, while the testosterone that occurs naturally in your body is a hormone, the synthesized testosterone that MMA fighters are injecting is a steroid; let's stop dancing around it and call it what it is).
But testosterone doesn't kick people in the head, right? You need to skill to do that. And that's true. You also need skill to hit a baseball over a fence, but I think we've learned that it doesn't hurt to get an infusion of chemically-enhanced power and explosiveness to give that existing skill a little extra push. It also doesn't hurt to get that push all through training camp.
That's the thing about performance-enhancing drugs. They take what you already have and improve it with the help of some stuff you don't. That's why athletes use them. You think Belfort would be putting up with all the scrutiny from the media and the criticism from fans if this stuff didn't work?
It's worth noting how Belfort is handling that scrutiny, by the way. With the UFC's help, he's managed to avoid the prying eyes of the various U.S. state athletic commissions, many of which aren't exactly all that strict to begin with. But when John Morgan of MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) asked him about his testosterone use after his win over Rockhold, Belfort's response was to try to silence him as quickly as possible.
"Can somebody beat him up for me, please?" Belfort said of Morgan at the post-fight news conference. "Can somebody beat him up?"
Right, because nothing says "I'm using a totally legitimate medical treatment" quite like threatening those who ask questions about it. It's not just immediately after the fight that Belfort avoids these questions, either. Let's not forget, back before the UFC confirmed that he was using testosterone, Belfort refused to admit it, even when asked point blank about it by ESPN. It was only after the UFC outed him that he voiced his support for full public disclosure for all testosterone users. If the UFC hadn't put his business in the streets, he'd probably still be doing it in secret.
The sad part is, Belfort doesn't seem to realize how much the controversy is hurting him. He seems genuinely oblivious to the fact that, in the minds of many fans, there's an asterisk next to all these wins. Maybe he didn't need the testosterone to beat Rockhold. Maybe he could have pulled off that kick without it. But the thing is, we'll never know. Neither will he. He can tell us that it's all him, that the testosterone has nothing to do with his career resurgence. But if that's true then why doesn't he get off the juice? If it's not responsible for his success, then it shouldn't matter if he stops using it. And if he won't stop using it, then he can't be surprised when we won't quit talking about it.
Maybe that's the silver lining here, is the enduring force of the conversation. The more fights Belfort wins while on testosterone – and the more violent, spectacular finishes he reels off in the process – the more he fuels the debate. Looking at Twitter on Saturday night, the first response to his knockout of Rockhold was a kind of stunned amazement. The second response was skepticism and suspicion. By Sunday morning, it was the suspicion that lingered.
It'll keep lingering, too. Just ask all those power hitters from baseball's steroid era. Performance-enhancers like testosterone might be fast-acting, but the stain they leave behind is a stubborn one. The way Belfort's headed, he'll still be staring at it long after his fighting days are done.
UFC on FX 8 bonuses: Belfort, Souza, Martins, Larsen earn $50,000
JARAGUA DO SUL, Brazil – Vitor Belfort, Ronaldo Souza, Lucas Martins and Jeremy Larsen each earned $50,000 bonuses for their performances at Saturday's UFC on FX 8 event.
Belfort earned the "Knockout of the Night," Souza won "Submission of the Night" and Martins and Larsen picked up "Fight of the Night" honors.
UFC officials announced the winners following Saturday's card.
Renan Barao Withdraws from UFC 161 Main Event (Injury)
It looks like UFC 161 is going to need a new main event.
According to Brazilian-based Tatame, interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao has been forced to withdraw from a scheduled bout with Eddie Wineland after suffering a foot injury.
Tatame reported that Barao injured his right foot and would not have enough time to recover for the June 15 bout in Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Sam Sicilia not released, still with the UFC
Often, it seems, when a fighter gets released he's the last to know. But on rare occasions the fighter gets the last say on his contract status. At least that's what's happened with Sam Sicilia. Initially reported as part of the mass roster trimming on May 8th, Sicilia's manager spoke to MMAWeekly about the news of his fighter's release.
"He is not cut. He’s actually still on the roster," Sicilia’s manager, Nima Safapour of Alchemist Management, told MMAWeekly.com on Thursday.
"I anticipate for him to be back in the cage probably in the fall sometime."
Cat Zingano and camp say Bryan Caraway intentionally elbowed her in head at TUF 17 Finale weigh-ins
"I genuinely like everyone until I have a reason to dislike them. I saw [Caraway] all week, I smiled and was respectful. I get Miesha and not being bff's fight week, I'm not fighting her to make friends. But as far a corners go, good fights are the product of well coached athletes, with heart & talent.
Brian smiled back in my face then elbowed me in the head at weigh-ins. I was pissed. I considered him in that same respect. I am a fighter all the same, but that was dirty and cheap to do to anyone, let alone a girl.
They were both in on it, which makes it even more disturbing. If my husband or son ever pulled something like that, I would be their biggest problem. I won't be bullied nor condone it."
Reza Madadi out of UFC on FOX 8, Jorge Masvidal now meets Michael Chiesa
Reza Madadi (13-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) has been forced out of his lightweight fight against Michael Chiesa (9-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) at UFC on FOX 8, and Jorge Masvidal (24-7 MMA, 1-0 UFC) will step in to take his place.
The announcement was made on Tuesday night's edition of "UFC Tonight" on FUEL TV. Visa issues for Madadi reportedly are to blame.
With the change, UFC on FOX 8 now includes:
MAIN CARD (FOX, 8 p.m. ET)
Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga - for UFC flyweight title
Jake Ellenberger vs. Rory MacDonaldv
Robbie Lawler vs. Tarec Saffiedine
Liz Carmouche vs. Miesha Tate
PRELIMINARY CARD (FX and Facebook, 4 p.m. ET)
John Albert vs. Yaotzin Meza
Michael Chiesa vs. Jorge Masvidal
Danny Castillo vs. Bobby Green
Mac Danzig vs. Melvin Guillard
Matt Mitrione vs. Brendan Schaub
Yves Edwards vs. Spencer Fisher
Germaine de Randamie vs. Julie Kedzie
Ed Herman vs. Trevor Smith
Aaron Riley vs. Justin Salas
UFC 165 heads to Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Sept. 21
The UFC will return to Toronto in September for a pay-per-view that will be UFC 165.
UFC officials on Tuesday made the announcement on FUEL TV's "UFC Tonight."
UFC 165 will take place Sept. 21 at Air Canada Centre. No main event or other fights were announced for the card.
The show will be the UFC's fourth in the Ontario city, which is the largest in Canada. Most recently, UFC 152 took place at Air Canada Centre on Sept. 22, 2012 – so UFC 165 will return there exactly a year later to the weekend.