After UFC 168, UFC president Dana White said that Yahoo! Sports 2013 MMA Fighter of the Year nominee Vitor Belfort would be the next challenger for middleweight champion Chris Weidman's title. ESPN's Brett Okamoto reports that, according to UFC co-owner and executive Lorenzo Fertitta, the bout is being targeted for either May or June of 2014 in Las Vegas.
"Depending on Chris Weidman, I'd like to do Vegas [in] May or July," Fertitta was quoted as saying.
The desired timing of the fight won't raise many eyebrows but the location will. In 2006, Belfort failed a post-fight drug test administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) when a steroid was found in his system immediately after a fight against Dan Henderson.
In the years that followed, Belfort would begin to use testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to help him train. Belfort claims that he has hypogonadism and, as a result, has trouble producing a normal amount of testosterone naturally.
Belfort has received therapeutic use exemptions to use TRT because of his condition, but he has yet to receive one from the NSAC. Instead, Belfort has mostly fought in his home nation of Brazil, where he is a huge draw and which also does not have the same reputation for stringent medical and safety regulation as U.S. state commissions like those of Nevada and New Jersey.
In 2013, Belfort fought three times, all in Brazil and all with TUE's to use TRT. Now that Belfort is in title contention once more, the question of whether he will receive a TUE from Nevada, where most of the UFC's biggest fight cards are held, is an open one.
In the past, the NSAC executive director Keith Kizer has seemed to express doubt that Belfort would be able to easily receive one from the commission given his past steroid use. Abusers of steroids can sometimes develop problems like hypogonadism where their bodies can no longer produce enough testosterone on its own once they are off steroids.
So, even if fighters like Vitor Belfort do indeed have conditions where they do not naturally produce normal amounts of the crucial hormone testosterone, the question is whether they have that condition because of past illegal and unsanctioned steroid use.
How to resolve such tensions has not yet been dealt with in a comprehensive and coherent way in combat sports. Instead, different fighters often receive different sanctions for very similar regulatory infractions and who will or will not receive TUE's seems to be anyone's guess up until commissions make their decisions.
Belfort has said that he would fight Weidman without the use of TRT but has also expressed confidence that he might receive a TUE for it given that sanctioned cheaters like Chael Sonnen now also receive TUE's for the treatment. White has also expressed confidence that Belfort will be able to fight in Nevada.
We'll keep you posted with developments in this story as they occur.