Vitor Belfort has a problem. He is seen as a cheater by many who do not like the rash of testosterone replacement therapy usage that has taken root in the sport. In many ways, he’s become the prime target for anti-TRT reformers. While he’s always been powerful, it doesn’t help his case that he once tested positive for steroids, and that he’s experienced a career rebirth at the age of 35. It just lends more attention, and fair or unfair, more suspicion. Recently, Belfort’s problem has become the UFC’s problem as some of that heat has been redirected the promotion’s way after they announced plans to book Belfort in Brazil for the third straight time.
The belief of those who’ve heaped criticism on the UFC is that Belfort will have a much easier time of receiving an exemption in Brazil, and that he will not face nearly stringent enough testing standards there.
UFC president Dana White on Wednesday night attempted to quell the issue, saying that Belfort has become a Brazil mainstay because he’s a star there and because he has been specifically requested by the UFC’s television partner, Globo.
"They have a big fight that’s going to be on Globo, they wanted f—ing Vitor," he said after Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Kampmann 2 event. "They want Vitor, they’re going to get Vitor. They tell me whoever they want, I’m going to try to make it happen."
White went on to point out that he’s lately been at odds with Belfort due to his continued fight demands as the UFC shuttled names at him for a possible bout, and wondered why exactly people would think he would put his name and the UFC’s reputation on the line for someone who has quickly become a lightning rod for controversy.
"He was going to fight in Nevada," he said. "We were going to have him fight in Nevada. I think the last scrum I told you that, but they wanted him in f—ing Brazil, so that’s where he’s going to fight."
That move to Brazil though raised suspicions at least in part because many mistakenly believe Nevada state athletic commission executive director Keith Kizer said Belfort could not get an exemption in his state. Kizer actually said, "I don’t see Vitor Belfort getting a TRT exemption from us," a subtle but significant difference because it doesn’t close the door on the possibility of Belfort fighting in Las Vegas. In fact, Kizer does not even have a vote during hearings on such matters, which are usually decided by commissioners after collecting evidence and testimony.
UFC shows in Brazil are regulated by the Comissao Atletica Brasileira de MMA, a sanctioning body that was established at the start of 2013. The group’s medical director Dr. Marcio Tannure, recently said that during Belfort’s last fight camp, he conducted blood tests every month to confirm Belfort’s levels were within normal range, as well as immediately before and after bouts.
To add some extra drama to it all, his scheduled opponent Dan Henderson is also a TRT user, and is also expected to apply for a therapeutic use exemption for the Nov. 9 show held in Goiania, Brazil. For whatever reason, Belfort’s use seems to draw more attention than Henderson’s, but it all becomes a headache for White and the UFC. But he’s steadfast in his defense of the company, and points to all of the disgruntled former fighters as proof of his intentions. No matter what they say about their ex-employer, no matter what their gripes, there is no one to back up any claims of favoritism and cheating.
“What’s the one thing you hear? ‘I don’t like what he said. I don’t like this. He said mean things or did whatever,’” he said. “You don’t ever hear anything illegal, anything dirty, any s— like that. Because we would never in a million years.”