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Vitor Belfort has no time for critics

Vitor Belfort
How much does TRT actually help 'The Phenom'? Our doctor weighs in on the hot topic.
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Mike Chiappetta

Mike Chiappetta has documented the fast-growing sport of mixed martial arts since 2006 for news organizations including SB Nation, NBCSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, AOL and ESPN. He appears regularly as an analyst on countless television shows and radio programs, including CBS Radio and MMA Beat. Follow him on Twitter.

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There are certain things Vitor Belfort doesn't want to talk about. Looking too far ahead into the future? Forget about it. Belfort has more urgent things to discuss, like the granite-fisted striker soon to stand in front of him. Things he can't control? Those aren't really on his list of conversational topics, either. Ask him if he'd be disappointed to never have a rematch with Anderson Silva and it's on to the next, a subject simply not worth the energy.

But he no longer avoids talk about the one thing he probably would most want to, and the thing that used to bother him: testosterone replacement therapy. It was first learned in February that Belfort was taking TRT, the information confirmed by the UFC right after Belfort knocked out Michael Bisping. Just prior to that, he'd been evasive on answering the question of whether he'd ever applied for a therapeutic use exemption.

Since the news went public, nearly every interview that he's done since then has addressed it in some way. Just days ago, Belfort made new headlines when he said he would discontinue his usage if it meant a chance to fight for a UFC championship. That led to a discourse about whether Belfort truly needed the treatment or simply wanted it. After all, how important is it if he can put it aside at the snap of a finger?

"I was just trying to say how committed I am to achieving something," he told FOX Sports. "Why would I want to do something that's going to hurt me? Just to make people feel good? Haters are always going to be there. People are always going to talk about you because you are somebody. Like I’ve said, this [TRT] can't teach people to knock people out with kicks and perform."

That's unlikely to make any of the critics go away. After all, he has a positive steroid test in his history, and past steroid abuse is a common cause of hypogonadism, the medical issue that causes low testosterone. It's a small leap to make that connection in Belfort's case.

Among TRT users in the MMA world, Belfort has largely received the lion's share of criticism, even though his Saturday UFC Fight Night opponent, Dan Henderson, is believed to be patient zero in the TRT-MMA connection. According to Henderson's own estimation, he's been a TRT patient for around six years.

During a recent interview, Belfort said he's been on TRT around three years, though in a conversation with FOX Sports, he said he could not recall the first fight in which he was using TRT. However, he stresses that he is thoroughly and consistently tested, with blood work done each week to ensure he is staying within an acceptable, normal range.

In an effort at transparency, he said that he believes even more should be done to make sure fans know he is not receiving an unfair advantage.

"I think everybody should be able to be following guys with big names, especially guys in title fights," he said. "Follow guys through the camp and see how their blood is doing. Because it's everywhere. To be true, you have to be doing everything by the book, not cheating anybody.

"I was just kind of showing how motivated I am," he said, circling back around to his offer to get off TRT. "Of course, they won't allow that to happen. It's unhealthy for me. It would be unfair. If you're doing something right, everything goes good."

Belfort and Henderson fought once before, at PRIDE 32, the first promotional event to be held outside of Japan. In the bout, Henderson won an uneventful decision. For Belfort, the loss made it defeats in five of seven fights. Despite it, a rematch isn't something he especially pined for.

That's born out in his performances since then. In something of a career rebirth, he's won nine of his last 11, with his only losses coming in title fights against Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, respectively.

"I don't try to plan big fights," he said. "I'm trying to go to the top and reach the top, and I'm trying to climb the mountain. Dan is a mountain. So I think it's a pretty interesting fight. To be able to fight guys like him, with that type of credit and knowledge is good. I like big challenges."

It is that, he says, and not any medical assistance, that continues to push him forward, 17 years after he made his professional debut. After all this time, he still loves the chase. The only difference, he says, is that these days, he can push aside everything else that is beyond his control. Whether it's outside negativity, lingering doubts about his TRT usage, or what's beyond Saturday night and Dan Henderson, it's simply not worth his time, effort or energy. It may not be enough for critics, but it’s enough for him.

"It used to bother me," he said. "Not anymore. Not anymore. I'm a happy guy. I know who I am. When you know who you are, it's good. I'm good. I know I'm not perfect but I'm trying to do my best. That's what I'm always doing, doing my best."

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