There is no question that UFC middleweight Vitor Belfort is an all-time great. In nearly 20 years as a pro, he’s accomplished a great deal and won many titles.
Perhaps most impressive of all is that he’s still relevant and challenging for the top spot in the sport. In May, he will challenge 185-pound champ Chris Weidman for the middleweight world title in Las Vegas.
Belfort’s accomplishments make it easy to respect him, and his well-rounded and always exciting style of fighting make him a blast to watch. That said, it has become increasingly difficult to listen to him talk and not roll your eyes.
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Take, for example, a recent interview where "The Phenom" had the temerity to suggest that he is being unfairly targeted for drug testing, in comparison with his opponent, Weidman. Quick recap for all in need of a refresher: Belfort has failed multiple drug tests over the course of his career.
After his first violation, back in 2006, he ignored his suspension from the Nevada Athletic Commission by fighting in England. Years later, the UFC kept him fighting abroad, outside the jurisdiction of credible and strong commissions while he used a drug treatment (testosterone replacement therapy) that then-Nevada commission executive director Keith Kizer said that he’d be unlikely to receive a therapeutic use exemption for if he applied for one in the state — the world’s fight capital and the home of the UFC — because of his past steroid use.
Along the way, while using TRT Belfort experienced a career resurgence and emerged as the top middleweight contender in 2013. In 2014, with a new executive director in place at the Nevada commission, Belfort was booked to fight Weidman in Nevada.
Then, TRT exemptions were done away with altogether. Belfort was given a surprise test, which he failed.
Instead of being fined and suspended, Belfort was effectively allowed to turn down the title fight, give himself a timeout and return. Once he did, Belfort was promptly re-given a title shot against Weidman.
In the span of a year, Belfort failed a drug test (for the second time in his career), was given no formal sanction for it, and given at least two title shots. Now that UFC athletes are being tested more heavily, outside of post-fight tests, Belfort is upset at the way it is being done.
It isn’t that Belfort is opposed to testing — he says he wants more — it is just that he believes that his opponent Weidman, who has yet to fail a drug test in the UFC, should be just as closely monitored as he is, as a multiple-time caught doper.
"If they come test me for my fight with Weidman, they have to go test Weidman as well on the same date, same time. That’s an equal system. It has to be fair. It’s not fair that they test me seven times and only test him once."
Equal regulatory treatment is definitely a worthy principle, but Belfort is a strange standard-bearer for it given how he was kept from real regulation for years while using a now-completely banned drug, and that he has either chosen to ignore past penalties for failed drug tests, or simply not been formally punished for them at all. Belfort went on to welcome daily and comprehensive testing for himself, though we imagine only on the condition that Weidman go through the same.
"We know how the system works these days," Belfort concluded.
"I don’t think the athlete does anything he doesn’t know, so I want them to test me every day. Come take my blood, my urine, but has to be equal for everyone."