Vitor Belfort, who has been under fire for his use of testosterone replacement therapy, told Fox Sports 1 early Friday that he had opted to pull out of his planned May 24 middleweight title fight with champion Chris Weidman that had been set to be the main event of UFC 173 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.
Former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida will replace Belfort in the title fight.
Belfort said in a statement to Fox Sports 1 that he made the decision after the Nevada Athletic Commission voted 4-0 on Thursday to ban the use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) effective immediately.
In his statement to Fox Sports 1, Belfort said:
The Nevada State Athletic Commission recently altered its policy and will no longer permit testosterone use exemptions and will not permit a TRT program. Other jurisdictions may follow suit. I'm going to drop my TRT program and compete in MMA without it. Given the time constraints between now and my proposed next bout in May, I have determined not to apply for a license to fight in Nevada at this time.
Part of Belfort's reasoning is likely because of pressure from the UFC. If Belfort were to have applied for a license in Nevada, he would have been forced to appear in front of the entire commission, because he is 35 and it is commission policy for athletes over 35 to meet with the commission before being licensed. But also, the next hearing is scheduled for March 11, and Belfort likely wouldn't have been able to prepare a presentation by that point.
The commission meeting after March 11 is scheduled for sometime in April, and that likely would not have given the UFC enough time to find a replacement for a major pay-per-view show had Belfort not gotten licensed.
Belfort fought three times while using TRT, with all three fights coming in his native Brazil and all three resulting in spectacular knockout finishes. He stopped Michael Bisping in the first round with a kick on Jan. 19, 2013; finished Luke Rockhold with a head kick in the first on May 18, 2013; and stopped Dan Henderson with a kick just 77 seconds into their Nov. 9 bout.
Belfort, 36, tested positive for the anabolic agent 4-Hydroxytestosterone following an Oct. 21, 2006, bout at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas and was suspended for nine months.
A common side affect of steroids usage is the inability of the body to produce sufficient testosterone.
On Feb. 7, the night of a mixed martial arts award show at The Venetian in Las Vegas, Belfort was tested by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Belfort consented to the test. The results of the test are unknown.
However, because Belfort has not applied for a license in Nevada yet, his records are not likely to be public. When an athlete applies for a fight license, it is a privileged license and as part of the application process, the fighter agrees that things such as drug test results become public information. But Belfort is not licensed in Nevada and has not applied; as a result, even if the commission has his result, it likely can't release it and can't do anything with it.
Belfort said he would apply for a license to fight in Nevada at a later date, at which time he would undoubtedly be asked about the result of the Feb. 7 test, if it is not public by that point. Because the test is commonly known -- UFC fighter Brian Stann saw the testers approach Belfort and tweeted about it -- even if Belfort applies in another state, he'd likely be asked questions about it.
Belfort attorney Neal Tabachnick could not be reached for comment on Belfort's statement.