Monday, 20 May 2013 11:35
Vitor Belfort knocks Luke Rockhold out with beautiful spinning wheel kick in UFC on FX 8 main event, TRT controversy intensifies.
Have you ever read Goethe's Faust? If not, and you're wondering how an 18th century play relates to a sport where shirtless dudes whip the tar out of one another, hear me out for a second.
Faust is the story of an eponymously named professor who sells his soul to a manifestation of the devil known as Mephistopheles in exchange for the demon agreeing to become his supernatural personal assistant. Although Faust initially claims he wants to use this brimstone beast's infernal power to expand his sphere of knowledge, he ends up primarily using it to make time with babes. This culminates in the ol' hornball getting stuck on the idea of bedding the legendary Helen of Troy. Mephistopheles makes this fantasy a reality, but it ultimately proves to be a temporary illusion: Faust can no more hold onto Helen than he can a passing cloud. He eventually ends up a curmudgeonly old geezer living alone in a giant tower, regretting his deal with the devil.
Which brings us to Vitor Belfort and his spectacular spinning wheel kick knockout of Luke Rockhold at UFC on FX 8 this past Saturday. A devout Christian like Belfort may be the last person you'd usually associate with a story about making a pact with the devil, but I can't be the only one who sees something downright Faustian in the 36 year old Belfort's use of testosterone replacement therapy.
Sure, the self-proclaimed "Young Dinosaur" may not be compromising his immortal soul by using TRT, but he may just be trading both his own integrity and that of the sport for a few extra years tacked on to the tail end of his career.
Judging from his cavalier attitude whenever the subject of TRT comes up though, it isn't likely Belfort is losing any sleep at night worrying about intangibles like integrity at the moment. After all, he's busy earning six figure paydays and amassing a row of head kick knockout victims on his mantlepiece worthy of a witch doctor's collection of shrunken heads. The problem is, the rest of the world doesn't appear so willing to turn a blind eye to the artificial enhancement underlying Belfort's recent accomplishments.
Just look at the reaction online to Belfort's victory over Rockhold. Normally fans would be falling all over themselves singing the praises of a fighter who just turned in an all-time highlight real knockout like that, but by and large that hasn't been the case this time. A quick scan of message boards and news site comment sections reveals more people questioning -- or outright condemning -- Belfort's TRT use than those celebrating his skills. For some reason, this one really seems hard to digest for a lot of people.
Maybe it's the incongruity between Belfort's utterly jacked super hero physique and his claim to suffer from hypogonadism. Perhaps it's a combination of Belfort finding a lot of success lately and the shroud of medically prescribed steroid use hanging over that success like a giant question mark (let's not mince words, testosterone is an anabolic steroid after all).
Those nagging doubts make it hard to sit back and enjoy Belfort's handiwork when we watch him dispose of talented middleweights like Rockhold and Michael Bisping with head kicks straight out of a Jet Li movie. Can we ever really know for certain if Belfort would have scored knockouts with those kicks if he wasn't getting a speed and power boost out of a syringe on a regular basis?
It's a fair question, but apparently it's not one Belfort is willing to talk about anymore. In fact, if you're a reporter who makes so bold as to even whisper the three initials most associated with Belfort these days in his presence, be forewarned he's not going to take it well. At least he didn't when MMAJunkie.com's John Morgan politely questioned the Young Dinosaur about TRT at Saturday night's post fight press conference.
Belfort's first reaction was to do what any fighter with nothing to hide would do: he asked for someone to please beat Morgan up for him. When none of the surrounding reporters stepped in to do their best Scrap Pack jumping Mayhem Miller impression on Morgan, Belfort made a feeble attempt at taking control of the narrative:
"You're boring man, you're boring," Belfort said. "I'm not going to talk to you. Talk to my hand."
The thing is though, Belfort may have felt slick after shushing a respected journalist like Morgan in just about the rudest manner possible, but he can't control how people interpret his refusal to speak candidly about TRT.
Belfort also has no say in the matter when it comes to whether or not a commission in the United States will grant him a therapeutic use exemption. Nevada State Athletic Commission head Keith Kizer has already said he doubts Belfort could gain a TUE in Nevada given his past test failure for the anabolic steroid 4-hydroxytestosterone back in 2006.
This creates a booking conundrum for the UFC. It appears they are positioning Belfort as a potential contender against the winner of the upcoming Anderson Sliva vs. Chris Weidman middleweight title bout, but there's a giant syringe shaped hurdle in the way of Belfort fighting for the belt right now. What happens if Belfort applies for a TUE in Nevada, or with any other American commission, and gets rejected due to his past under the table steroid use? It's hard to imagine the UFC pulling the trigger on a Belfort title shot if he refuses to give up TRT but isn't allowed to fight in the US while using it. Does this set up a scenario where Belfort comes clean -- ostensibly at least -- and gives up TRT for a shot at the gold? Or will he go the Chael Sonnen route and make the credulity-straining claim he can't quit TRT because he will "die" without his "medicine?"
Ultimately that's the real irony in all of this TRT business: it could be the very drug that's helping Belfort remain competitive as he nears his fourth decade on Earth will end up costing him not only one last shot at championship gold, but also the respect of a large part of the MMA community. In the end he may be remembered as much for what he put in his body during the later years of his career as for what he got out of it inside the cage.
But that's not the worst of it. What if after Belfort retires, he spends a dark night of the soul wondering about what would have happened if he fought clean? Who's to say he won't be just as unsure as the rest of us when he remembers those head kicks and wonders if he could have pulled them off without the help of a loophole that allowed him to use medically prescribed steroids.
If that day ever comes, Belfort may end up looking back at the spectacular knockouts he delivered during the twilight of his career and feel just as hollow inside as Faust did trying to wrap his arms around a ghost.
What, you didn't think the Devil was going make a deal with someone and let him get off scot-free, did you?