Vitor Belfort started his MMA career in 1996. To give you an idea of how long he has been around, consider this: When he made his debut, Michael Jordan and the Bulls were about to embark on their 72-10 season. Bil Clinton was the president. Yahoo was just two years old. "Beverly Hills, 90210," the greatest television show of all time, was on the air, and I was a senior in high school.
Since that first fight, a 12-second knockout of Jon Hess, he's fought 31 more times, putting together a record of 22-10. His 33rd fight is Saturday against Luke Rockhold, the 28-year-old Strikeforce middleweight champ.
Now 36, Belfort fought twice in a tournament at UFC 12. He knocked out two opponents in a total of two minutes. He went 1-2 against Randy Couture, beat Wanderlei Silva but lost to Kazushi Sakuraba. He's fought in Pride, Affliction and the UFC. He had Jon Jones in an armbar, coming the closest to beating Jones of any of the light heavyweight champion's opponents.
But the longevity of his career has contributed to the controversy swirling around him now. Like Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen and Quinton Jackson, Belfort is one of the fighters who is on testosterone replacement therapy. It's allowed with a doctor's note, but not all fighters are for it. Rockhold thinks Belfort taking testosterone, a hormone that helps athletes add muscle and aggressiveness, is fishy.
"Just look at his physique," Rockhold said. "Look at how he looks at [36 years old]. You can't tell me that at his age, something like that looks natural. TRT use is something I don't agree with at all," Rockhold said. "It's a way to get around the system. They say TRT is needed for low testosterone, that it's a medical condition. Well, what causes low testosterone? Prolonged steroid use is one cause."
Testosterone also naturally decreases in men as they grow older. With TRT, fighters get the benefit of their years of experience without one of the drawbacks of being an older fighter.