The last 24 hours has been a bit of a rollercoaster for Chris Weidman. He went from thinking all about having to face an aggressive Vitor Belfort at UFC 173 to matching wits with counterstriker Lyoto Machida.
Weidman said he’s excited about getting the chance to face Machida. And he’s not surprised that Belfort had to pull out.
"I did have a feeling I wasn’t fighting him the whole time," Weidman told FOX Sports. "There was a lot that still had to go on. He had to go and get licensed in Nevada. I just had a weird feeling."
So maybe Weidman isn’t just one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Maybe the UFC middleweight champion is a psychic, too.
Just hours after the Nevada Athletic Commission banned testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) on Thursday, Belfort pulled out of the May 24 fight in Las Vegas. Belfort has been on TRT the past three years and racked up three devastating, first-round knockout wins in 2013 in Brazil over Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson.
He won those fights. It was legal. But it looks fishy. I feel bad for those guys.
"I don’t like it," Weidman said of TRT and Belfort’s situation. "I’m not to judge. He won those fights. It was legal. But it looks fishy. I feel bad for those guys."
Belfort being licensed in Nevada was no gimme, with or without a TRT ban. Belfort had previously failed a drug test in the state. And once that happens, therapeutic usage exemptions (TUE) for TRT are just not given.
"There are people cheating in all sports," Weidman said. "There’s always gonna be cheaters. Any time that cheating is allowed pretty much, like TRT, I don’t like it."
There’s more to be done in MMA to prevent fighters from using performance-enhancing drugs. But Weidman can’t harp too much on it. He has a fight to prepare for on Memorial Day Weekend — against a new opponent.
Both Belfort and Machida are strikers, but they couldn’t be more different. Against Belfort, you have to weather the storm early. Versus Machida, the former UFC light heavyweight champion, you have to be incredibly patient. Weidman relishes watching film, analyzing opponents and figuring out a way to beat them. Machida, who is coming off a win earlier this month against Gegard Mousasi, certainly presents a unique challenge.
Vitor Belfort pulled out of the fight with Chris Weidman just hours after the Nevada Athletic Commission banned TRT.
"I think he definitely brings a lot to the table — a lot of dangerous things," Weidman said. "It comes down to being a chess game and he’s one of the best at playing it. I’m excited for that challenge. He’s really awesome."
Weidman won’t go as far as to say that Belfort didn’t earn a title shot, but part of him is more comfortable with Machida getting that right. With "The Dragon," there are no suspicions of drug use, no worry that he might not pass a pre-fight test. Weidman is just happy testosterone usage therapy is in his rear-view mirror.
"It’s great that TRT is banned," he said. "We don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore. Now there’s no questions. It’s more black and white now."