Last night at UFC on FX 8, we saw that a “young dinosaur” can learn new tricks. The “TRTnom,” Vitor Belfort, provided us with the knockout of the year last night over Luke Rockhold. Sport-wide, this issue of Testosterone Replacement Therapy is certainly rubbing a lot of fighters, including Brian Stann and Rockhold, the wrong way. Last night Stann tweeted that he has seen a noticeable difference in speed and power when training with guys pre and post TRT.
Whether or not you agree with TRT, the fact that Vitor Belfort is developing new skills at age 36 is a testament to the effectiveness of the treatment. Prior to his head-kick knockout of Michael Bisping, Belfort never used his kicks in any significant fashion. Yet in the last two fights, he has showed a new-found proficiency for kicking dudes in the face.
Why wouldn’t we want to see fighters like Belfort able to extend their careers and give us more amazing, highlight reel knockouts? Why wouldn’t we want more knockouts and longer careers for fighters? Isn’t that why many people were disappointed with BJ Penn’s career? People viewed him as a guy who had all the talent in the world but did not do everything within his power to be a great fighter. On the flip side, Belfort has showed that, through legal means, he is now developing new skills and continuing to train and improve himself as a fighter. You can argue that performance enhancing drugs are dangerous for the health of fighters but that argument doesn’t jive because there are 13 million men taking TRT – the same drugs that Belfort takes – to improve their testosterone levels. Belfort may have developed lowered testosterone levels by taking illegal PEDs in the past, but he was also caught and punished for those actions.
If you were a basketball player and there was a shoe out there guaranteed to help you jump higher, run faster, recover from injuries faster, and it was completely legal, wouldn’t you buy that shoe? If you want to blame the UFC and athletic commissions for allowing this “loophole” to continue to exist, that’s fine. Write your congressman. Tell them to put pressure of the commissions to ban TRT in sports. But don’t blame the fighters for legally using everything they can to better their careers and make more money.
Personally, I’m all for regulated use of performance enhancing drugs. Like any drug, steroids are dangerous if abused. But under the guidance of medical professionals, the use of performance enhancing drugs could help to quell the injury epidemic currently facing the UFC. Fans complain constantly about how many guys get injured so let’s solve that problem, while simultaneously getting rid of the competitive advantage of PEDs. If everyone is taking them, then there is no competitive advantage gained from PEDs, everyone would be on an even playing field (unlike today where a good majority of fighters take PEDs even though they are illegal). Make PEDs legal and regulated so that they can be used to help fighters train harder and faster.