This past week, the Nevada State Athletic Commission decided it was finally time to outlaw testosterone-replacement therapy. The decision has been met with widespread public support.

Obviously, this issue has been in the public’s consciousness for some time. The focal point has been UFC middleweight contender Vitor Belfort, thanks to his impressive wins in a fashion that none of us could have expected. Belfort quickly became the face of TRT use in MMA, not because he had been seen to overstep the allowable limits for TRT, but because of his prior drug use and the speculation that his need for the treatment stemmed from these past indiscretions.

Whilst the Brazilian may have been the main talking point when it came to TRT, he is not alone. There have been others who have opted to begin the controversial treatment. The difference is that those other fighters have largely escaped the same ridicule that Belfort has endured.

The impact of the decision to ban the practice has been immediately felt. Belfort was withdrawn by the UFC from his title fight against Chris Weidman and replaced by Lyoto Machida. The reasoning for this was that because the treatment was so crucial to Belfort’s quality of life, it would take time for him to adjust so that he could continue to perform at the same level without it. This will cast doubts over Belfort and his character, but in essence it was the only thing he could have done. If he had continued towards the fight without a second thought, then the public perception would be that his TRT use was just an elixir of life that Belfort relied upon over the last few years to make himself competitive, despite advancing years.

In its statement decrying the use of TRT, Nevada openly stated that the use of the treatment increases the safety risk and creates an unfair advantage for those competing under the influence of TRT. Are we therefore to reconsider the achievements of those who have been receiving the treatment in recent years? And, if so, should the commissions not retrospectively change the outcomes to a no-contest ruling?

If that is the case, then Belfort would be deprived of his stunning knockout performances against Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson. Chael Sonnen would be remembered very differently for what he managed to do to Anderson Silva in their first fight or what he subsequently managed to do in wins against Bisping or Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

The truth is we just cannot say for certain how much of an effect the treatment had on the result. What is fair to say, though, is that if the commission feels that TRT can produce an unfair advantage, then Bisping must be feeling like a cheated man. His record has been marked by losses to Henderson, Sonnen and Belfort, who, in the commission’s own words, may have had an unfair advantage going into their fights.

Just as with the unfortunate drug problem that has stigmatized the world of cycling in the past few years following Lance Armstrong’s revelations, we are now left to wonder who emerges as the biggest winners and losers of the whole sordid ordeal. How would the current landscape of MMA differ if TRT had never crept into the sport in the first place?

The Biggest Winners

1. The fighters on the treatment – This goes without saying. The fighters using the treatment clearly benefited the most from the practice, with Belfort leading the pack. Whilst the exact impact the treatment has had cannot be quantified, the records should still be questioned.

2. The promoters – Whilst the UFC has publicly denounced the practice of TRT, it must be said that the promotion has also benefited from it. Judging by what the likes of Sonnen, Henderson and Belfort have all said about it, they may not have otherwise had the quality of life that is required to train and compete at such a high level. As such, the UFC and other promoters have clearly benefited from being able to have these fighters around the sport longer than nature may have intended.

The Biggest Losers

1. Those facing TRT users – Had Bisping not suffered the losses to TRT users Henderson, Sonnen and Belfort, then it is fair to say that he might well have been the man facing Anderson Silva instead of Chris Weidman last July, and history could read very differently as a result. In addition to Bisping, there are countless other fighters who will consider themselves cheated in the sense that they have had career setbacks thanks in some part to a practice that the commissions that now regulate the sport consider to be unfair.

2.The fans – The fans of MMA have been calling for something to be done about TRT for some time, and it has taken this long for it to have any impact with those in power. MMA fans will now be questioning the rankings and morals of the fighters they have come to admire over the last few years to the point whereby we may place an asterisk next to certain victories so as to discredit them when we come to reflect upon the “TRT era” of the sport.

Where We Go From Here

Thankfully, the path is now clear for MMA to continue on a transparent course with no underlying concerns about the validity of any fighter, apart from the ever-present concern of steroid abuse that exists in all sports.

MMA fans are just like any other section of society. As soon as one issue is cleared up, they find another issue fit to moan about. It’s only a matter of time before random drug testing becomes the flavor of the month and an ongoing talking point, due to the mistrust sports fans have developed in recent years when it comes to their leading stars.

About The Author

Greg Byron
Staff Writer
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Greg Byron started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.