Vitor Belfort is still going strong at the ripe age of 36 and has a failed drug test marring his past, so it's not altogether surprising that the revelation of his Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) usage following a spectacular second-round knockout of Michael Bisping was met with criticism from fans and fighters alike.
Belfort, however, doesn't believe the criticism is justified.
"It's hard," he said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I cannot explain why I need something. It's just, the doctors, you know, just they said that I need [TRT]. I did everything by the book. I went to the commissions, the UFC. I never hide from them, so they knew what I was doing. I believe everyone has their personal things. My health is my personal life, you know? A lot of people on TRT, they don't tell [the UFC], whatever. But my case came out because they got a guy on steroids (Thiago Tavares) and they thought it was me, and then they just opened the books. But they knew I doing everything with the UFC together, and never hiding anything.
"It's just open books with me. Nothing was cheating. I never cheat, everything was by the book, and it is what it is."
Soon after Belfort's victory and subsequent outing as a TRT user, UFC President Dana White publicly flip-flopped on the controversial treatment, vowing to "test the living s--t" out of users because of his belief that TRT was being abused by "cheating" fighters.
Belfort, similar to fellow TRT advocate Chael Sonnen, says he's already been tested "many times" since White's announcement.
"Everything is normal," Belfort explained. "My ranges are even lower than the normal. I did everything I should do.
"Whatever's good to make the sport clean, because there are always people cheating, looking for something. I agree (with the testing), man. I think Dana White's doing the right thing. I think the more we separate who's doing the right thing, it's important."
For Belfort, it's frustrating to hear people still label him as a cheater despite the legality of his TRT usage. He tries not to listen to the noise, but when asked, he attributes any negative remarks towards people's desire for drama and general lack of understanding about the treatment.
"People don't know about it. That's why," Belfort said.
"It's just easy when you talk bad and when you talk gossip. You know, that's the world, man. That sells things, that sells papers, sells fights. That's what people love, gossip, talk and this. They need something to entertain themselves. I think everyone has to just live with themselves. I don't judge. I don't like it. I don't like to talk bad about people. ... I like to focus and do the right thing for myself, and learn and improve, correct my mistakes. It's when you point the finger, man, the finger points back to you.
"Why don't we talk about people that do TRT and they lose in the first round?" Belfort continued. "Because, you know, TRT doesn't win fights, man. It doesn't win fights. Look at Chael Sonnen. He's on TRT and he lost fights in the first, second round. It's not going to win fights. You've got to have skills to win fights. That's what it is. A lot of guys are on it. I think they should release everyone who's on it, because that would bring more legitimacy to the sport, and UFC doing the right thing and testing people. I think we're on the right path, and if you lose, just accept it, man. Everyone has an excuse."
Among those who criticize Belfort is his upcoming opponent, Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. The two are scheduled to meet May 18, 2013 at UFC on FX 8, but in the lead-up to the fight, Rockhold hasn't exactly kept quiet.
Rockhold has rallied against Belfort's TRT usage rather adamantly, insulting the veteran and using the opportunity to claim that he's more of a man than Belfort.
"I'm glad he's not my doctor," Belfort laughed. "I'm glad I don't need to listen to him.
"I think he's wrong, but what are you going to say? People say what they're going to say. He doesn't know me, I don't know how he can say that, but we'll see. You cannot judge. I think it's too arrogant to say you're more of a man. He doesn't know what a man is. He doesn't have any kids, he doesn't have a wife. I don't know what he's thinking. He's talking about courage? I don't know what he did in the sport. I think it's disrespectful, the way that he thinks. But it is what it is. You cannot control it, you cannot control people.
"My conversation with him will be inside the cage," Belfort then vowed. "I don't have to talk. We're going to fight, and that's what it's about. I don't need to prove anything to anyone. I did a lot of things for the sport, and I'm still doing. Facing these young guys, and I bring the heat, man. He'll come to a jungle. He'll face a lion."
In case it isn't obvious, all this trash talk doesn't do much for Belfort. A self-styled "old lion" and "young dinosaur," Belfort has been dealing with these types of situations for nearly two decades, and in that time, he's come to understand how little these displays of bravado actual mean when the cage doors swing shut.
"Whatever he said is on him. Words have power, and I think when you're proud, and you're arrogant, and you cross the line, you've got to deal with what you said," Belfort concluded, before offering up one final, ominous remark.
"Bisping did the same thing, and guess what? When people talk, man..."