LAS VEGAS – Two weeks ago, when Dana White appeared at the UFC on FOX 9 weigh-ins in Sacramento, he was sporting a Roots of Fight t-shirt that said "Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva II." It was the week after the two heavyweights collided in Brisbane, Australia, and after five furious rounds left each other as pulp.
The shirt was more of a commemorative piece for a classic fight, just some wishful futuristic thinking worn by the fight’s greatest admirer (White). He was just basking in the afterglow of the first encounter, not pushing for a rematch. White not only gave "Bigfoot" and Hunt show, win and bonus money, but joked he would buy them their own islands after that fight.
Then, of course, the news came down that Silva tested positive for elevated testosterone levels, which took all the sparkle off the fight and replaced it with asterisks.
At the UFC 168 post-press conference media scrum, White was asked how he felt now about the Hunt-Silva fight now that it was tainted.
"It bummed me out. I was bummed out," he said. "I loved that fight so much -- loved that fight. I can’t remember, tell me the last time you saw two heavyweights go at it back and forth like that ever. It’s been a long time. I was bummed out."
Silva’s failed test was only part of the news that became public after that Dec. 7 UFC Fight Night 33 card. It was also revealed then that Silva had applied for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy.
To complicate it further, in most circumstances a state or province will have an athletic commission in which a fighter must apply for a TUE through. With the UFC in Brisbane, the promotion acted as the commission, and therefore itself granted Silva his exemption. All of which made the elevated testosterone levels that much harder to justify.
"So here’s what happened," White told reporters at the scrum. "I told you we test the s--- out of these guys that are doing TRT. We gave [Silva] his last test the week of the fight, he was perfect. [Then] He took another shot. It put him over. And, what does that extra shot really do for you? What does it really do for you the week of the fight? It destroyed everything. Now you don’t get the win money. We were giving both guys show and win money. And you won the bonus. Now you lost both your show and win money and your bonus money. Ouch."
White turned Silva’s experience into a cautionary tale, more than a catalyst for change on the TRT front.
"So all of you guys out there that are on TRT -- and it’s legal -- if you want to f--- around and take that shot after you’ve been tested, there’s the consequences. The consequences could not we worse. Now you’re on suspension for a year, you lost your win and bonus money, and I’m sure your sponsors are thrilled either.
"Here’s what it does, where [TRT] really helps is in your training," he went on. "While you’re training it helps you heal faster and all this other stuff. Taking that extra shot the week of the fight just puts your levels up through the roof and doesn’t really give you any extra. If he didn’t take that shot they’d have had the same fight probably. It just isn’t worth the risk, why risk it? Now you see the consequences."
When asked if Silva’s TRT recourse might lead to other fighters either taking it or considering it to think better of it, White didn’t mince words.
"If you have a quarter of a brain, it should," he said.
Pressed for his own feelings on TRT, and as to whether or not this might prompt the UFC to do away with it in the future, White yielded to the protocol of other governing bodies.
"We’re always going to do what the athletic commission does," he said. "We’re always going to go with the athletic commission. You think it’s great for me that this guy…I literally, I told you guys how much I loved this fight. Now it ruins it for me."