“I’m definitely not comfortable,” Longo told MMAjunkie. “I just hope the guy passes the drug test. I hope the guy mans up and does what he has to as a man and for his kids and to set a good example. Instead of talking about it, just do it. Take the drug tests, pass them, and let’s get the fight on.”
Belfort has been one of the most controversial figures in MMA over the past year due to his well-documented use of testosterone-replacement-therapy (TRT). The treatment was suddenly banned in Nevada earlier this year, which caused several fighters, including Belfort, to face problems.
Weidman (12-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) and Belfort (24-10 MMA, 13-6 UFC) were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 173 in May; however, Belfort was flagged for elevated testosterone levels when subjected to a random NSAC drug test in February. The complication forced the Brazilian out of the bout and Lyoto Machida replaced him.
While the drug test results were originally kept private, Belfort later admitted he failed the test. For a brief period, he was slated to fight Chael Sonnen at UFC 175 on July 4th weekend, but the bout never came to fruition due to Sonnen’s own run-in with banned substances.
Debate surrounding the effectiveness of the now-banned TRT treatment varies from person to person, but Belfort’s use undoubtedly coincided with his current three-fight winning streak that saw him earn highlight-reel knockouts over Dan Henderson, Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping.
While several high-profile fighters other than Belfort used TRT during the period it was allowed, his case differs from the rest because he tested positive for anabolic steroids following an October 2006 defeat under the PRIDE banner. The fact Belfort is a repeat offender is a source of great concern, says Longo.
“If you look at history in the past, you can’t be comfortable with the guy passing a drug test,” Longo said. “I’m just hoping the guy does the right thing and he had an epiphany somewhere and he’s going to do the right thing. Let’s pass the test and fight. So that’s what I want to happen.”
Considering the TRT phenomena had such a short lifespan, there’s very little precedent for Belfort’s situation. Questions surrounding his ability to perform at the same level as his previous fights are ongoing. When it comes to UFC 181, which takes place inside Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Events Center, Longo says he can only expect the version of Belfort who has three fights in a row, all by some form of head-kick knockout.
“We’re going to prepare for the TRT version of Vitor Belfort,” Longo said. “We’re going to prepare for the best Vitor Belfort there is. Weidman loves to test himself. He’ll beat him on steroids, off steroids – it doesn’t matter. We want to make it fair and we want the best Belfort there is.”
While Longo says he will put faith in Belfort and the NSAC to ensure a clean fight, he can’t help but shake the skepticism lingering in the back of his head.
Middleweight contender Luke Rockhold has already stated he’ll be prepared to step in for Belfort in case the worst happens and the 38-year-old fails another drug test. Longo says that’s not a terrible idea, because, much like when Machida stepped in for Belfort earlier this year, the promotion might be forced to resort to a Plan B.
“I just thing on his past actions, as a logical person, I don’t think I can be that comfortable,” Longo said. “We have to be ready for a contingency plan in case the guy fails the test, which kind of stinks.”