Questions about drug use still follow Belfort

Maybe it was jet lag or a side effect of cutting weight, but Vitor Belfort sounded tired during a phone interview from Brazil on Tuesday.

A trilogy fight between Belfort (24-11) and Dan Henderson will headline UFC Fight Night on Saturday inside Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

It's a matchup between two legends of the sport. Belfort, 38, is a former UFC light heavyweight champion and three-time title contender. Henderson (31-13) once held titles in multiple divisions in PRIDE.

The main topic of prefight conversation, however, has not been either man's accomplishments or their previous two fights (which they split 1-1). The main talking point has once again been Belfort's history with drug use, particularly testosterone-replacement-therapy (TRT), which he began using in 2011 and discontinued in 2014 when it was widely banned in the sport.

Belfort has presumably been off TRT for well over a year now, but he hasn't been able to distance himself from it. UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman publicly accused Belfort of submitting suspicious drug test results prior to their championship fight in May, which Belfort lost in the first round.

In September, a Deadspin article reported that the UFC allowed Belfort to fight Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title back in 2012, despite knowledge of a private lab report that showed he had above normal testosterone levels. The UFC hasn't commented extensively on that report, other than director of communications Dave Sholler stating "any suggestion there was a cover-up is categorically false."

Speaking on the subject of TRT yet again on Tuesday, Belfort said he has always followed the rules and worked closely with athletic commissions. He said the reason he's singled out on the topic is not due to any test results, but the amount of success he enjoyed while on TRT.

"I understand the questions," Belfort told ESPN.com. "Fourteen athletes used to do TRT and none of them had the success I was having. Everyone who has success will have people come after them. No one throws stones at a dead dog.

"I was the only guy who revealed all my personal tests. I've always been very open."

Henderson, 45, was also approved for use of TRT between 2007 and 2014, but did not undergo a physical transformation or fail a test. He said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the amount of random drug testing conducted prior to this weekend's fight and didn't mind media questions focused on the topic.

Well before TRT started dominating headlines as a controversial treatment, Belfort tested positive for elevated testosterone following the first time he and Henderson fought in 2006. For their rematch in 2013, which Belfort won via first-round knockout, both men were approved the use of TRT -- but it was Belfort who came under scrutiny due to the changes in his physique and the UFC's decision to have him fight exclusively in Brazil that year.

"It's kind of s--- the way the public found out [about Belfort's testosterone levels in 2012] -- seemingly that it was covered up," Henderson said. "It all comes down to Vitor not representing MMA as a sport very well. He's tested positive more than once. I think there's always going to be a black mark on him because of that and his choices. It's nobody's fault but his.

"Obviously, the media is going to ask those questions. If Vitor was on the up and up, there wouldn't be those questions."

Despite the fact it has been nearly two years since Belfort's last win, he remains the No. 5-ranked middleweight in the world according to ESPN.com. Should the cards fall right, Belfort could easily fight for a UFC title again next year.

Perhaps a greater question, beyond whether Belfort can still win a belt, is whether or not he can ever move past the topic of TRT and performance-enhancing drugs. It's a tired topic for the Brazilian, who is now in the 20th year of his professional career.

Listening to him talk, Belfort seems to believe there is time to do so.

"I don't have a long time in this sport -- I don't want to deceive myself -- but we have Bernard Hopkins fighting at 50 years old," Belfort said. "This business is about selling fights. With the way I'm fighting and with all I've done in the sport, I still want fights that matter."