"I’m the type of fighter that steps into the jungle not fearing anything," he told MMA Fighting. "I’m there to fight, to do my best. that’s what I’m going to do. I fight with what’s inside of me. My motivation is not him. It's not what people say, it's not what people think. My motivation, no one can steal it, or my my gifts and my talents. I develop them every day. I’m new every day. I've just been blessed. I'm so happy."
Being "new" every day? That's also part of the criticism about Belfort, or at least how much is earned and how much is artificially produced.
After knocking out Bisping, it was revealed by the UFC that Belfort was on a TRT program after being diagnosed with hypogonadism. That revelation seemed to correspond with a beefed-up physique, a change that he attributes to diet and strength training. Adding to the drama, Belfort had previously declined to confirm or deny rumors that he was on TRT. Taken together, he seemed guilty of something.
The therapy has become one of many fronts in the war on PEDs. While it is legal under a doctor's care and an exemption from athletic sanctioning bodies, its use has quickly become widespread, with major names like Chael Sonnen, Forrest Griffin, Dan Henderson, Frank Mir and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson on the rolls.
Then, in February, company president Dana White changed his own view on TRT from neutral to negative, declaring it as "a way for people to cheat," and saying he was "absolutely 100 percent against TRT." On one hand, it was the strongest anti-TRT statement to date. On the other, White's words came right around the time UFC announced Belfort vs. Rockhold as the UFC on FX 8 main event.
"That’s what he thinks, but I’m not doing anything illegal," Belfort says. "I think people have to have this choice, you know?"
Belfort says that he doesn't care that his name came out as a user, even though as a result, he gets asked about it in every single interview he does. Even though some people accuse him of cheating. That's a label that has dogged him before, and may stick to him until he hangs up his gloves.
"It's no problem," he said. "I think they should release [the name] of everyone that's on it. For me, it's no problem. I'm not doing anything illegal, so I'm not ashamed of anything."
While the focus largely remains on TRT, he would like more credit for his hard work, and for the efforts of his coaches. The Blackzilians staff has received its share of criticism as a super camp that doesn't always boast matching results but Belfort believes part of his newest iteration stems from the instruction he receives there, citing his wrestling improvement as proof that the UFC's old lion is capable of learning new hunting tricks.
Where will it ultimately lead? To Belfort, that is not a question for him to answer. Of course, there is still the hope for another chance to win a UFC championship. The possibility of bookending his career with a belt is still there, but with losses to both middleweight champion Anderson Silva and light-heavyweight champ Jon Jones, there is no guarantee he will earn a rematch with either, even though a victory over Rockhold would be his fourth straight win while competing at 185 pounds
After all this time, it's just a wonder he's even in the conversation. TRT may be controversial, but the results of known users suggest it's no wonder drug. His religion may inspire him, but doesn't win fights. At 36, and with time and controversy chasing him, there must be other factors, too. Maybe it's Belfort's ability to find peace amidst chaos, a hard-won trait that can only come from experiencing fantastic success and devastating pain, and learning that neither defines you.
"When you realize you have a purpose and you have a joy and you have all that lined up, a great team behind you, family, I’m loving it, "he said. "I've never had so much fun doing what I do. Now I realize that’s my purpose. It's going to come to an end. The key is to finish strong and with a lot of respect for everyone. That's what I'm fighting for. The bottom line is the commitment with your choice. As soon as you make a choice, go for it and be happy. That's my secret."