TRT saga rages on; Couture debacle, more

February, 8, 2013
2/08/13
7:30
AM ET
Gross By Josh Gross
ESPN.com
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A month ago, prior to knocking out Michael Bisping in Brazil, Vitor Belfort was asked a direct question by ESPN.com's Brett Okamoto: Had the 34-year-old Brazilian ever applied for or considered using testosterone replacement therapy?

Belfort rambled through a winding nonanswer. Something about public and private information that's all so controversial it's not worth saying anything at all. Well, it didn't take a genius to figure out what the deal was because odds are if you're not on TRT, you'd probably say so.

On Wednesday, UFC officials cleared the fog (at least a layer of it) by confirming Belfort was "diagnosed with hypogonadism, or low testosterone" and "had been on medically approved testosterone replacement therapy under the supervision of a medical doctor from the state of Nevada."

In the face of rumors that he either tested positive or was using a therapeutic use exemption for TRT, Belfort's display last weekend in Las Vegas to reporters now borders on ridiculous.

Responding to anyone that might have wondered what was up, Belfort said: "I think people get jealous when a guy of my age is destroying these people getting title shots.”


A guy his age -- taking shots. Or rubbing in a cream. Or whatever.

We know now that Belfort -- challenged by anabolic steroid rumors even during his earliest days in the UFC, which were confirmed in 2006 by a nine-month suspension and a $10,000 fine payable to the state of Nevada after too much testosterone was found in his system (he blamed not knowing what a doctor had injected into him) -- is allowed to boost up his levels.

This raises questions.
[+] EnlargeBelfort
Susumu Nagao for ESPNShould fighters be notified when their opponents have been cleared for testosterone replacement therapy?

For instance, how does a guy who tested positive for steroids remain eligible for a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone?

It turns out this is possible. The Nevada State Athletic Commission, for instance, does not prohibit fighters who tested positive for PEDs from getting a script for testosterone.

"The issue would be if an applicant's condition was caused by PED usage," said NSAC executive director Keith Kizer. "The applicant's burden would be much higher."

One could also say the same about the body responsible for setting and enforcing that burden. It's unclear how it was handled by Zuffa, which essentially ran the event while reportedly showing a new Brazilian athletic commission the ropes.

"The purpose of a medically administered TRT regimen is to allow patients with hypogonadism to maintain testosterone levels within a range that is normal for an adult male," the promotion said in a statement.

The potential for abuse seems obvious, so it's fair to wonder whether or not Belfort was monitored during his camp. It doesn't seem adequate to only test TRT patients around the fight.

What role did the UFC have in monitoring Belfort, particularly for an overseas event in which it essentially acts as a regulator?

Should Michael Bisping, at 33 just a year younger than Belfort, have been notified that his opponent was under the care of a medical doctor for low testosterone? And that this care allowed him to inject testosterone?

As pointed out in different places, three of Bisping’s last four losses have come against guys under the TRT therapy.

Does the public have a right to know before the fact? There is wagering happening. I imagine it would be helpful to know which fighters are augmented and which aren’t.

TRT isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s a fact of life in the UFC, and needs to be managed the right way.

Cornered



Would dictating who works a corner during a fight be a step too far for the UFC?

Dana White, of course, recently banished Randy Couture to what the UFC president sees as the hinterlands of the MMA world. “The Natural” can’t come close to the Octagon again, according to White. Maybe not even inside the building the cage is set up. And he can absolutely forget acting as the chief second for his son Ryan.

Seriously? There’s no good reason one Couture shouldn’t be allowed to help another, never mind some personal beef over business.

White should (re)read an article written by Lorenzo Fertitta for the Las Vegas Sun
that was published the night of Couture’s final fight.

If that doesn’t make White back off, Fertitta should put his foot down and stand by comments like:

“To me, the term ‘legend’ applies to a good friend, mixed martial arts pioneer Randy Couture,” whom the UFC chairman dubbed a “cornerstone” of their growth.

“Few people represent the sport better than Randy Couture.”

“I’m sure through many endeavors, Randy will remain connected to the UFC and the sport for many years to come.”

The connection, if it’s to exist right now, can’t be about business. But that also has to mean Couture can’t work his son’s corner?

That can’t stand.

Middle-wait

Anderson Silva has guys to fight at middleweight. He just needs to get going.

Chris Weidman appears on deck, and the 9-0 fighter from New Jersey is doing his part to call out the Brazilian icon.
[+] EnlargeRyan Couture
Dave Mandel for Sherdog.comRyan Couture will have to make do without his father in his corner -- at least for the near future.

The bout makes sense. It seems competitive, or at least as competitive as one can imagine a Silva fight to be. But don’t get carried away by the idea that 185 pounds has nothing left to offer Silva if he disposes of yet another challenger.

Underneath the champion, middleweight is as wide open as any class in the sport right now.

Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold’s athleticism and hunger are promising. Hector Lombard could do something crazy on a good day. Ronaldo Souza just comes across as a tough test for “The Spider.”

The division is producing worthy heirs, yet the king continues to comfortably do his thing.

Heavy heart



»The heavyweight division just got strange. What was setting up to be a monster stretch of fights has lost its direction some following UFC 156. Word from MMAFighting.com that Josh Barnett turned down a deal to fight in the Octagon doesn’t come off as the best timing.
»UFC Primetime: Rousey vs. Carmouche was as heartfelt a half an hour of programming as the promotion has ever put together. It’ll be shown a million times leading up to Feb. 23, so find it and watch it. Women fighters can turn into stars so much faster than men. That’s been an amazing phenomenon to watch over the years. Rousey has all the makings of a superstar, so long as she continues to beat women perceived as real contenders and isn’t driven bonkers by the cameras.

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