By Zach Arnold | August 21, 2013
HOW DARE YOU! Jon Taffer, Luca’s favorite screen capture target
Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson targeted for Nov. 9 in Brazil http://t.co/pMKGFcyC6J
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) August 21, 2013
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”