The controversial UFC star was unanimously cleared to compete by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) during a hearing Wednesday and will challenge Chris Weidman for the UFC middleweight title on Dec. 6 in Las Vegas.
The licensing comes with three factors: Belfort must comply with random future drug testing, he cannot fight until December and he cannot have his next bout anywhere else but Nevada. Belfort’s lawyer said during the hearing that Belfort had a verbal agreement to fight Weidman at UFC 181 on Dec. 6 at Mandalay Bay. The UFC made the bout official moments after Belfort was licensed.
"The reason I’m here, I’m open, I’m reasonable, I think that’s what I’m looking for," Belfort said. "Not just with me, but with the sport, the fighters, whoever wants to be in the spotlight, fight for a title, be something, they gotta follow the rules."
Belfort, 37, failed a drug test given by the NAC in February due to elevated testosterone levels while he was in Las Vegas for the World MMA Awards. Belfort told the NAC on Wednesday that the reason why he failed is because he was granted an exemption for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in his native Brazil and, before traveling, he took a larger dose.
The reason I’m here, I’m open, I’m reasonable, I think that’s what I’m looking for. Not just with me, but with the sport, the fighters, whoever wants to be in the spotlight, fight for a title, be something, they gotta follow the rules.
TRT was banned in Nevada and everywhere else in February. Belfort would have fought Weidman in July, but the UFC removed him from the card after gaining knowledge of his failed drug test and because he was cycling off TRT. Belfort said it was initially hard to come off TRT, calling it "a crash." But he’s feeling better now.
"When we are moving by will, some people have skills and some people have will," Belfort said. "I have a will. God gave me a talent. I have a mission and my mission in the sport is be an example, be a role model and fulfill my dream."
NAC commissioner Anthony Marnell told Belfort that he would be drug-tested regularly "until the day you retire." Belfort agreed and also agreed he would foot the expenses for the tests.
Belfort was last licensed in Nevada in February 2011, a loss to Anderson Silva. He has won three straight by knockout, all coming in Brazil. His TRT use and those recent victories coming in a region with flimsier testing and regulation than Nevada brought criticism. Belfort said he wants to show he can compete cleanly in Las Vegas.
He also failed a drug test in 2006 in Nevada. Belfort served a suspension at the time and claimed Wednesday that it was a substance taken as part of a medical treatment.
"I want to prove to the commission that I am a great fighter who follows the rules," Belfort said.
Weidman defeated Lyoto Machida at UFC 175 on July 5 by unanimous decision. He beat Silva for the title last July and defended his belt successfully against Silva in December.
UFC 181 on Dec. 6 could also have a lightweight title fight between champion Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez. Pettis announced that tentative date for the fight Monday on "The MMA Hour" with Ariel Helwani.