Much of the narrative leading into Vitor Belfort's Dec. 6 title shot against middleweight champion Chris Weidman will focus on Belfort's previous use of testosterone replacement therapy.
With Belfort being granted a conditional license last Wednesday by the Nevada Athletic Commission to fight in Las Vegas at UFC 181, the only thing that matters to Weidman is this: the fight.
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"I respect him as a fighter," Weidman said Saturday at the MMA World Expo in Manhattan. "I'm going in there ready for an absolute war and ready for the best Vitor we've ever seen. I can't afford to have any lack of respect when it comes to fighting. That being said, I'm going in there to get a finish. If I don't get a finish, I'd be real disappointed."
Belfort, 37, earned the title shot by winning three fights, all by headkick knockout, in 2013. But Belfort, the No. 2 ranked middleweight, has faced criticism over the past two years for his use of TRT. The Nevada Athletic Commission voted unanimously last February to stop granting therapeutic use exemptions for TRT. Belfort has said he was using TRT for medical reasons.
After the NAC's ruling, Belfort (24-10) was removed from a Memorial Day title shot against Weidman. Belfort had been subject to a random drug test earlier that February when he was in Las Vegas for the World MMA Awards. He failed that test. In June, Belfort released documents that showed a spike in testosterone at the time of that drug test and a subsequent drop in hormone levels in additional testing later.
Moments after Belfort was granted his license, the UFC announced the fight. Weidman said he was told the day before by UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta that the fight would be announced the day of the NAC hearing, provided Belfort was granted the license.
Part of the terms of Belfort's license is that he is subject to random testing for any drug at any time by any commissioner. Expect him to be tested. Expect him to be asked about it whenever he is put into a setting to be asked questions about this fight, particularly at the kickoff news conference for UFC 181 to promote tickets going on sale. That event date is still to be determined.
In 2006, Belfort tested positive for the anabolic steroid 4-Hydroxytestosterone after fighting Dan Henderson.
"At this point, he should be pretty used to that type of talk," said Weidman (12-0). "Nothing should bother him at this point. If it's something that gets people excited, something to talk about, then he should be OK with it and I should be OK with it."