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“Why yell about testosterone when fighters are using better, undetectable drugs?”

By Zach Arnold | August 21, 2013

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HOW DARE YOU! Jon Taffer, Luca’s favorite screen capture target

That’s not my question. Rather, it’s a question being asked by handicapper of And his timing for asking this question couldn’t be any better because of this following development:

It does appear that we’re going to close out the year with Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson in the double testosterone death match in Brazil and Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva, perhaps for the NYE weekend show in Las Vegas.

Naturally, the online fan reaction has been quite explosive. My issue with testosterone usage in MMA has nothing to do with the win/loss aspect of the debate but rather the health & safety aspect. If you use testosterone, you naturally are going to have more punching power. You’re also extending your career so that you can both deliver more head trauma and receive head trauma yourself. In combat sports, retirement is not always a bad thing. Too many guys have too many reason$ not to quit when they should and, before you know it, the damage has been done. Someone is going to get seriously hurt in the future and then a news entity like Outside the Lines will start digging deeper into the testosterone enabling in MMA and it will rightfully be a big embarrassment.

Here’s a rush transcript of what Luca had to say on the matter. The wording isn’t a 100% match, but you can listen to the audio clip for full nuance & accuracy.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that this is a topic that really gets on my nerve, how when a guy uses testosterone wins a fight everyone flocks to their computers to voice their opinion on how BS testosterone (usage) is, how it’s absurd that these guys are allowed to use it, it’s this magical potion that decides fights, it’s a difference maker, it makes guys go from zeroes to heroes and blah, blah blah. However, when a guy loses a fight on testosterone, nobody mentions it at all. They don’t sit there and go there, ‘hey, you know, maybe this is actually evidence to support that testosterone really isn’t that big of a deal.’ No, they just brush it aside and then the next guy uses testosterone wins a fight, they’re back to getting out their pitchforks and going on and throwing a riot. It’s just ridiculous.

“The thing is, testosterone (usage) really isn’t that big of an issue. For starters, if you look at the guys who use testosterone in MMA, combine their records all together, they actually have a losing record! They’ve lost more than they’ve won. Not only that, they’re the same fighters they’ve always been! There’s nothing different about their games.

Vitor Belfort

“Take Vitor Belfort right now. He’s one of the guys who gets the most criticism for using testosterone. Do you know how many fights Vitor Belfort has won since using testosterone? By the sounds of it, you know the way people act about it or talk about testosterone (usage) and Vitor Belfort, you’d think he’s on like a 30-and-0 streak and before testosterone usage maybe he lost 20 fights in a row, like there’s this huge flip. Guess what? Vitor Belfort has won two fights since using testosterone. Not only that, he was the favorite on both of those match-ups and was in his home country. And not only that, he fought against two guys who have always been known for having suspect chins. Granted, Luke Rockhold not necessarily known for a suspect chin but he had been knocked down before. His only loss was by TKO. We hadn’t seen his chin tested all that much but when it had been tested it didn’t show to be all that great. The other guy (Vitor) fought was Michael Bisping, a guy who’s been notoriously chinny. So, Vitor Belfort getting a first and second round knockout over them, what is so surprising about that? If Vitor Belfort wins fights, it’s always been the same thing with him — he either gets a knockout in the first or second round or he gasses, mentally gives up, and gets stopped or loses a decision later on. It’s always been his M.O. to get early knockouts, so why is him knocking out two guys who he was favored over in his home country with suspect chins, why is that such a big shocker? It really doesn’t make sense to me.

“And not only that, some people are like, ‘Oh, testosterone (usage), it’s turned Vitor Belfort’s career around!’ Guess what? Vitor Belfort was 7-and-2 in his last nine fights before using testosterone with his only losses being to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, two of the best fighters on the planet. Since testosterone usage, like I said, he’s only 2-and-0. So, he’s 9-and-2 in his last 11 fights but only two of those wins were while he was using testosterone. He was already on a great run. It did not change his career, it did not turn it around. It really hasn’t made that big of a difference.

Dan Henderson

“Take another guy, Dan Henderson. He starting using testosterone, he knocked out some lower-level fighters and everybody was up in arms, ‘oh, Dan Henderson, this is crazy, look at all these knock outs he’s getting.’ Dan Henderson has always had big power in his right hand, even back when he was in PRIDE. Yes, he had a lot of decisions and is known for having a lot of questionable decisions go his way, but he’s still always had that big power. Well, now look at him — he’s lost two fights in a row, has looked horrible in them, and even in some of his wins before that namely like the Mauricio Shogun win he looked horrible in that fight as well.

“And do you know why he looked horrible in his last few fights? Well, against Rashad Evans he fought a guy who is a better wrestler and a better striker. Bad stylistic match-up for him. Against Lyoto Machida, he fought a guy who is a better striker with good-enough takedown defense to keep the fight on the feet. And against Shogun he looked good early but couldn’t put him away because Shogun is extremely hard to finish and as usual Dan Henderson gassed after about two rounds and looked awful after that. That’s always been Dan Henderson’s M.O., much like Vitor Belfort. He’s been a guy who’s going to be stronger in the first couple of rounds, might knock you out, might be able to control you, but after that he’s going to gas out and look awful. Testosterone (usage) didn’t change that and when he fought guys who are bad stylistic match-ups for him that he couldn’t get a quick knockout over, he didn’t do well. Testosterone didn’t make him suddenly have excellent cardio, it didn’t make him suddenly become a more tactical striker. No, he’s the same fighter. But now people don’t talk about him being on testosterone and being this huge advantage because he’s losing fight.

Frank Mir

“Take another guy for example, Frank Mir. He started testosterone (usage) before his last fight, everybody was all up in arms, ‘oh, this is so ridiculous, Frank Mir’s not even an old guy.’ Well then we went out against Daniel Cormier, did absolutely nothing, was not able to land any kind of offense whatsoever, got completely neutralized, lost a clear-cut decision. Nobody mentioned testosterone ever again regarding Frank Mir. But if he had won that fight by, say, getting a submission, you know everybody would have been up in arms even though Frank Mir’s always been a good submission threat. But still, that was a fight that was a bad stylistic match-up. Testosterone (usage) didn’t affect Frank Mir there. He still lost because, again, it was a bad stylistic. Testosterone (usage) is not this great equalizer. It’s not going to be something that makes fighters this whole different level or anything like that.

Chael Sonnen

“Let’s name off one more guy here, Chael Sonnen. Everybody obviously knows his well-documented exploits with testosterone. Obviously, he did go on a nice run since starting testosterone (usage) but, again, if you go back and look at those fights, those were again good stylistic match-ups for him, guys who he is a superior wrestler that he could be able to take down and weren’t much of a threat from the bottom. They were only three rounds. He was able to ride out decisions here. When he fought a guy like Anderson Silva, five round fight, Anderson was able to capitalize on his weaknesses and in a two round fight Anderson was able to do as well. When he fought Jon Jones, again, a bad stylistic match-up for him and he lost. When Chael Sonnen fought good stylistic match-ups for him, he won the fights. When he fought bad stylistic match-ups, even on testosterone, he lost the fights. It did not make a difference.

“This is what I keep saying — testosterone usage is not this great equalizer. Does it help? Yes, of course it’s going to help some. It is still a performance-enhancer. But you know what’s also a performance-enhancer? Protein powder, having a good diet, even sleep is a performance-enhancer. Caffeine is another one. There are lots of performance-enhancers that you can use legally but they don’t suddenly make guys go from a low-level gatekeeper in the UFC to champions. Of course, they’re going to help some but the extent of which is very minimal.


“So, testosterone usage, like I said, you looks at the guys that have used it (and) when they fight bad stylistic match-ups for them, they still lose. When they fight good stylistic match-ups, they still win. It’s not changing the outcomes of fights. And like I said, they have overall more losses than wins in the UFC and pretty soon there’s going to come a time where Vitor Belfort fights a guy who’s going to be able to out-wrestle him and he’s going to out-cardio him, Vitor Belfort’s going to lose the fight and people will see Vitor Belfort still has the same weaknesses as before and, again, MMA will always resort to the same reason of why guys win or lose fights, it’s all about the style match-ups. Of course, there are some other variables as well and there’s some luck involved, but mainly it’s all about the style match-ups. Testosterone is not the great difference maker.

“And on top of that, to really put a bow on this, testosterone usage like I said it’s technically a performance-enhancer, it does help a little bit. But the thing is the majority of UFC fighters, at least a lot of them, are already using illegal steroids anyways. This is a well-known fact amongst people who are in the know and you wonder why Dana White and the Fertittas don’t want anything to do with VADA testing, the more advanced (drug) testing than the simple urine tests that they have right now or the fact that some fighters have been connected to the Biogenesis, the steroid, clinic that Dana White and the Fertittas again are just brushing under the table, want nothing to do with it. It’s because they know a lot of their fighters are using (drugs) and some of the stuff they’re using is a lot better than testosterone is and like I said, the tests are very easy to beat. So, Vitor Belfort can use testosterone all he wants, some of these other fighters can use it all they want as well, but there are fighters using better stuff and getting away with it perfectly clean. Again, the tests are not hard to beat. So, if you still think after hearing all of this, you think that testosterone (usage) is still this great different maker and it is deciding fights and it is this huge issue, I’d really like to know your reasons why.

“Again, I’m not saying that it doesn’t help whatsoever. I still admit it is somewhat of a performance-enhancer. You have guys like Vitor Belfort shouldn’t be allowed to use it but it’s not really making that big difference, it is not decided fights, it is not as big of an issue as some people make it out to be. I think probably a year from now, maybe two years at the most, I think people are barely going to remember what testosterone (usage) was. I think the issue will be gone once Vitor Belfort and some of last-straggling guys who are leading the testosterone-using army end up getting losses on their records, I think we can put it behind us. As of right now, it’s still an incredibly frustrating issue to hear people talk about how big of a difference-maker it is when it really just, simply put, is not.”

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 23 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

23 Responses to ““Why yell about testosterone when fighters are using better, undetectable drugs?””

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    I think that is a huge issue. And especially with MLB…

    Why aren’t the drug tests being examined more when all of these people are caught using in other ways but aren’t being popped during the tests?

  2. Chris says:

    Cosign on that Zach.

    Of course we all know the Zuffa policy on TRT. “Cheat the legal way and it’s all good.”

  3. Jay Bee says:

    What are the other drugs?
    How is testing beaten so easily?

    Please explain for me the MMA Novice.
    I cant tell if they are on drugs by visual man I dont know.
    Please explain and I will continue to visit your website

    • Chuck says:

      “What are the other drugs?”

      The guy Zach Arnold was quoting was being very vague, but other performing enhancing drugs would be EPO, various forms of anabolic steroids, the cream and the clear (the cream is an ointment, and is a masking agent, the clear being that specific anabolic steroid used in conjunction with the cream), various form of diuretics (they make you pee or whatever, to help with cutting weight), beta blockers, etc. Do a Google or Wikipedia search man!!

      “How is testing beaten so easily?”

      Again, he was being vague. But ways to beat it would be masking agents and cycling off the drugs in time for testing. Blood testing is way more effective than urine testing. But urine testing is what the state athletic commissions use.

      “I cant tell if they are on drugs by visual man I dont know.”

      You usually can’t. Even those who look “softer” could be using. Great example was pro wrestler Bret Hart in the nineties. He got pushed by the WWF after the steroid trials the WWF went through. He looked “cleaner” than guys like Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger and the like, and many thought he was clean. But he absolutely used anabolic steroids back in the nineties. Another great example from that specific time frame AND wrestling promotion is “HBK” Shawn Michaels. He was a user as well, and he is quite a bit smaller than Bret Hart.

      • Jay Bee says:

        Yes it is very difficult to understand what he is talking about. It’s still not clear what the drugs are that athletes are using that are undetectable.
        I think it’s speculation.

        Thanks for your time explaining.

        I think it’s strange to spend time worrying about what others put into there bodies for sports. I want to see for focus put into Gloves being redesigned or mouthpieces/headgear.

        Whats obvious is a guy getting smashed in the head.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      Growth hormone for sure. Designer steroids. EPO for endurance.

      Standard urine tests only catch the dumbest of the steroid users, at least the dumbest of the testosterone users. You need a test like Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR) to check urine for synthetic testosterone. A lot of fighters are able to use pellets for microdosing of synthetic testosterone in order to get under the 4:1 T/E (testosterone-to-epitestosterone) ratio of a standard urine test. Your basic ratio is 1:1.

      A blood test might catch GH use within a few hours but no real significant GH test exists right now.

      • Jay Bee says:

        Interesting. I have not heard of any of this pellets. ANd I do not understand the Testing.
        How does 4:1 compare to a private med lab test where they compare serum levels. Normal range was like 350-1100 on mine. I have been curious about that.

        Thanks for your knowledge in this subject.

        • Zach Arnold says:

          Serum/levels are about blood testing.

          With the standard urine tests commissions use, they measure T/E (testosterone/epitesosterone) by a ratio but the standard tests don’t tell you outright if the testosterone is natural or synthetic. One barometer of detection for synthetic usage is if the T/E ratio, which for humans is 1:1, is some crazy ratio like 20:1 (see: Brian Bowles).

          The CIR (carbon isotope ratio) urine test, which commissions don’t use, can detect the usage of synthetic testosterone even if the T/E ratio is low. A lot of fighters are skating by the standard urine tests by using synthetic testosterone but using it in small enough doses to skate under that 4:1 T/E ratio being permitted by commissions.

          So, boxers like Lamont Peterson got caught by VADA testing microdosing using pellets with smaller testosterone dosages in order to skate under the 4:1 T/E ratio.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    Boston just passed an ordinance that kids under 16 years old can’t go to MMA events unless they are with an adult.

    The group that brought up this bill was bad, but I don’t actually disagree with it. MMA is a violent sport. There is no reason for young kids there. I would have no problem if kids under 12 years old were banned from MMA events.

    And Rebney is saying they are not interested in Ben Askren. Even referred to his fighting style.

    Askren is horribly boring, but he is one of the 4 or 5 fighters I turn on Bellator for. With Askren likely gone…. Lawal, Ortiz, Rampage, Alvarez & Chandler on the PPV…. There is basically nothing left to watch for the weekly show coming up in a few weeks.

    Will be interesting to see what the ratings will end up being on Friday nights…

    • Steve4192 says:

      I disagree about Askren being horribly boring.

      He’s a lousy striker (both on the feet and the ground), but his grappling is sublime. He never just sits in guard and holds guys down. He is constantly creating scrambles and giving his opponent opportunities to get back up and fight. He’s just so damn good at what he does they never succeed. His fights are a 25 minute scramble rather than five takedowns and 20 minutes of holding position.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I think one of the reasons I found him “horribly boring” in Bellator was because all of his opponents (not including Hieron) had no grappling. So it was a squash grappling match.

        I found his fight with Hieron to be very good to watch.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    UFC 163 did 170k to 190k… That was Aldo vs. Jung. UFC 161 did 35,000 less then that… Which was Evans vs. Henderson.

    The Fox Sports 1 prelim show did 881k… Which was the same as what the FX prelims did for the last FOX show (similar time slot).

    One thing that Dave Meltzer said in the article that I found interesting was:

    “In 2019, things will probably be very different. If UFC gains in popularity and sports rights fees continue to go through the roof, there will be different economics.”

    I would love for this to become a reality. I really do think the PPV numbers are showing that the fans just aren’t going to pay for 12 to 15 PPV’s anymore. I really think 6 to 8 PPV’s is the companies maximum moving forward.

    I understand PPV needs to still be used for the biggest stars. But in a perfect “realistic” world… I would love to see a weekly live show… Along with 6 PPV’s & 6 FOX Shows.

    • Steve4192 says:

      I would love to see the PPV model die a quick and painful death. The sooner it dies, the better.

      That is one of the reasons I won’t be buying Bellator’s PPV. It’s bad enough we have one promoter using the PPV model. The last thing I want to do is encourage another one to use that model. I hope Bellator kicks much ass on SpikeTV, but I hope their PPV crashes and burns.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I really don’t mind paying for a few PPV’s a year. But those PPV’s should have TWO really good title fights on them and probably be 4 hours long.

        Long term… The entire sport probably needs to look like this:

        1) UFC PPV’s – Maximum of 6. Hopefully 4.
        2) UFC FOX Shows’ – 4 to 6.
        3) UFC Weekly Live Events on Fox Sports 1.
        4) Feeder League with a weekly “Friday Night Fights”.

        The smaller champions aren’t selling PPV’s. I have a feeling the floor on PPV’s is going to go down even more over the next 2 years. The PPV’s for the Heavyweight to Welterweight Belts will be fine. The Lightweight to Flyweight and female divisions won’t be capable of generating enough revenues to warrant a PPV.

        I am with you. I am not ordering the Bellator PPV. I also didn’t order the Evans/Henderson or Aldo/TKZ PPV’s either. I wouldn’t be ordering the Henderson/Pettis PPV if it wasn’t for Mir/Barnett.

        Imagine a UFC where everything 155 pounds and under was free…. It would be much easier to be a fan.

        • duck says:

          They have plans to visit 7 European countries next year, most will probably be regional fights and I can see them doing this in Asia and Latin America as well.

          I would think they would want a UFC subscription channel, that would have some big name fights, international fight nights, prelims, interviews, their tape library etc somewhat like the WWE network, they would need a TV partner like Fox though and would probably still have shows on Fox, Fox Sports 1 and 3 or 4 big PPVs

  6. david m says:

    I read that Lyoto is dropping to 185 and his first match will be against the ghastly boring Tim Kennedy. What a terrible fight. What is the point? Lyoto is the 2nd best 205er on Earth, and as a reward for getting jobbed out of a decision to Phil Davis, they throw a guy at him with no name value, no ranking, and no fan base. There are so many great fights at 185 for Lyoto–Weidman, Vitor (whom Lyoto called out), Chael, Bisping, Munoz, Leben, Jacare, etc., and they give him Tim Kennedy, whose claim to fame is lying on top of Roger Gracie for 15 minutes and doing nothing.

    Ed. — And the fight is happening on a Fight for the Troops show in Kentucky, so not friendly turf!

    • Steve4192 says:

      “Ed. — And the fight is happening on a Fight for the Troops show in Kentucky, so not friendly turf!”

      Pardon me if I don’t shed a tear for a Brazilian fighter competing in hostile territory. At least the good folks at Fort Campbell won’t be cheering for Lyoto to die.

      • DAVID M says:

        Fighting in Brazil didn’t exactly hurt Phil Davis against Machida.

        • DAVID M says:

          to Zach: I think it is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dana hates Lyoto and his style. Dana cares about skill about as much as a jon cares about a hooker’s educational background. Dana just wants to see 2 guys run at each other and keep punching until someone falls down. After Lyoto beat Phil 30-27 in the eyes of everyone I have spoken with (except edub–we don’t speak, per se, but you know what I mean–he said 29-28 Machida), Dana said he too had it 30-27, but that it was Lyoto’s fault. No, it wasn’t Lyoto’s fault. It was the fault of the judges. Dana hates counter fighting; Machida’s elusive, amazing style angers him to no end; Dana believes Lyoto should just flurry the entire fight without regard to his health or the possibility of losing and getting cut.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          There is skill… And then there is Lyoto Machida. Machida has skill. But when he only throws 3 punches a minute and attempts 1 takedown for an entire fight… It’s hard to actually call that fighting.

          That is his problem.

        • Megatherium says:

          Where ever you are physically, the cage never leaves Las Vegas. Not really.

        • edub says:

          “Dana said he too had it 30-27, but that it was Lyoto’s fault. No, it wasn’t Lyoto’s fault. It was the fault of the judges.”

          That is exactly right.

  7. Honest Kentaido says:

    Honestly, it bothers me a lot. I do not know how people look at themselves in the mirror being so fake. I guess if they admit to it, but still. It is not natural athleticism and not creditable.

    Imagine a drug. It is a pill and for 20 minutes it turns me into a veritable superman. I take it and can lift 400 pounds over my head like matchsticks. It allows me to knockout an opponent in 1 second.

    What is the difference but one of degree?


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