Recently the UFC has been announcing a number of big matchups to fill out the cards that will close out 2013. Of these contests, perhaps the biggest is the fight between two former champions in Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson. This rematch is a major bout to look forward to, as it could potentially set Belfort up as a top contender for the title of his choosing. That is, if the UFC actually gives him that championship opportunity.
While it never has been (and most likely will never be) confirmed, there has always been a sentiment that the UFC would every now and then “prefer” that particular fighters fail to get their hands raised, because his will give UFC matchmakers the opportunity to create fights that are more “fan friendly.” Fighters such as Jon Fitch were once rumored to be in such a role. Vitor Belfort may be in a similar position, although not for the same reasons.
Belfort has admitted to using testosterone replacement therapy to help him continue competing at the age of 36. He has become a poster child of sorts for the treatment, as his recent run in the UFC has been nearly amazing to watch. Outside of his defeats to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, “The Phenom” has stopped every opponent he's competed against in dramatic fashion. Michael Bisping this past January at UFC on FX 9 was the only individual to even make it out of the first round.
Some critics have spoken out about his usage, but none more interesting than the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s Executive Director Keith Kizer, who in March spoke out against Belfort obtaining an therapeutic use exemption (TUE) to compete in Nevada.
“I don't see Vitor Belfort getting a TRT exemption from us,” Kizer said to Bleacher Report. “I really don't and I feel kind of bad for him in some ways because if he has learned from his mistakes and now he's trying to do it the right way and his levels are low with the treatment, good for him and I hope he is doing that. The rules are the rules and you have to draw the line somewhere.”
If Belfort is unable to obtain permission to receive a TUE in Nevada, one expects that many other states would follow suit and deny his request as well. But what would that mean for the UFC, who would have a potential title challenger that would be relegated to fighting in countries that do not have a regulatory body in place, such as Brazil? The organization would stand to miss out on substantial revenue from high-profile title fights.
Belfort has put together a run that has been quite impressive at middleweight, much better than that of the most recent title challengers. Yet UFC President Dana White and others have been mum on the idea of Vitor receiving a title shot. Instead, they have placed him in some very tough matchups, and the Henderson bout is just par for the course. This bout is to occur at light heavyweight, and there hasn't been any real explanation of why Belfort was paired up in this way. If Henderson were to win this fight, which he has the power to do, Henderson wouldn't be any closer to a title fight at 205, as he has lost two in a row. And a loss would be a major blow to his career. However, a loss by Belfort would help the UFC solve a potential problem.
Vitor Belfort may not be the most popular person on the UFC roster, but he's putting together performances that make him hard to ignore. However, with this bout announcement, one must wonder if the UFC is trying to use Dan Henderson to take the “Phenom” off of the short list of title contenders. And as long as he continues to use TRT, that has to be a concern, both for the promotion and for Belfort himself.