UFC middleweight contender Vitor Belfort has been granted a license by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) on Wednesday at a hearing in Las Vegas. Per commission orders, Belfort cannot compete prior to December, he must fight in Las Vegas for his next bout and is subject to random blood and urine testing no matter where he is. Belfort must also pay for the enhanced testing procedures.
As a result, the UFC announced Wednesday he'll face UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman in the main event of UFC 181 on December 6th.
With his attorney Michael Alonso next to him, Belfort began his portion of the hearing with an opening statement that cataloged the relevant information about why he was appearing before them: his reasons in asking for a license, historical use of testosterone replacement therapy, previous drug test failures in the state and to reiterate his commitment to transparency and accountability.
At one point before concluding his final opening statement, Belfort was visibly brought to tears expressing his desire to obtain a license. "If the commission sees fit to granting my application," he told the commission, "I look forward to fighting in Las Vegas soon."
Belfort contended his failed random drug test ordered by the Nevada commission on February 7th of this year was a result of two factors. First, he was given a dose of testosterone the day before the random drug test was administered. Second, he had taken double the dosage, but only after missing a dose of his normal weekly treatment.
"To be clear, my level of testosterone was higher than what is allowed," he argued, "and I take responsibility for that. I also take responsibility for not communicating with the commission about the fact that I was on a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) from Brazil. In late February, the commission banned TRT. I stopped my TRT treatment that very same day.
"I voluntarily released my test results in order to try to help remove any controversy from this matter," he argued. "I want to prove I am a good fighter who follows the rules."
During the course of questioning by the commission, commissioner Pat Lundvall asked Belfort about the use and extent of his previous TRT use in Brazil and other jurisdictions. Belfort noted he had exceptions both in Canada and Pennsylvania. In areas where there were no formal TUE policies in place, Belfort and his attorney indicated they still disclosed the practice and when tested, returned results in the acceptable range of what's allowed in those jurisdictions.
"To clarify, I'm not sure they had a process for granting TUE," Alonso claimed, "but they knew he was on TRT and they checked his levels and he met the requirements in both Canada and Pennsylvania."
In addition, commissioner Bill Brady questioned Belfort about his place of residence, which prompted Belfort to promise to fight nowhere else but Vegas by December. "I promise you guys I want to fight here," Belfort contended, "I want to fully cooperate with you guys. I'm honored to be here, honest, and I know nobody's perfect, but I think we gotta be truthful with each other. All these months, I've been very truthful and open and I'm willing to work with you guys."
Brady also scrutinized Belfort regarding the possibilities of drug testing, reminding him under Nevada's licensing practices, he'd still be required to make himself available to testing no matter where he is. In addition, Belfort conceded to Brady's insistence that the Brazilian pay for any testing they felt necessary to be 'comfortable' with licensing him in the state.
When pressed on how he's coped with training since getting off TRT, Belfort said it's been a function of mind over matter.
"In the beginning it was really hard," Belfort acknowledged. "It was a crash, but I believe when we are moving by our will - some people have skill, some people have will - I have a will. I have and God gave me a talent. And I have a mission and my mission for the sports is to be an example, be a role model and fulfill my dream. I think when somebody gives you something, they have the right to take over, but when you achieve something, when you work hard, I think you deserve. That's how I see my sport right now. I'm working so hard and smart.
"Of course, I have to have a new way of training. In the beginning, I was very affected, but I'm deciding that my mind will take over my body. I'm just training smart. I gotta be smart with the age that I have, with the experience."
Commissioner Anthony Marnell ended the discussion period by getting a verbal guarantee that Belfort understood what being drug tested under 'reasonable' conditions actually meant.
"I'll give you my definition of reasonable testing going forward from this commissioner's perspective, that we're going to drug test you to the day you retire. That's my definition of reasonable," Marnell said. "We, in my opinion, should be in and around your career until the day you call it quits."
Commissioner Skip Avansino further added any of the state's commissioners have the power to order a test at selected dates and that Belfort must make "every to comply" with completing the test. He was encouraged to be physically in a location where that could be accomplished with relative ease.
"I'm fully cooperating with you guys," Belfort responded. "Whatever you guys want will be done."
After a brief deliberation, Belfort was granted a license on the three conditional terms aforementioned. The motion passed unanimously.
Upon conclusion of the vote, commissioner Brady told Belfort how he'll be remembered in mixed martial arts starts with what happens after Thursday's hearing.
"Your legacy will be determined by this meeting [going] forward, I believe that," he argued. "There's some gray area right now, but I believe your legacy will be determined from here forward. I hope that that's outstanding. I wish you the best in accomplishing that."
"I thank all you guys," Belfort responded. "I appreciate it. You guys are part of that."
The Brazilian arrived at today's hearing after winding through a convoluted process that involved test failures, fight bookings and ultimately, bout cancellations.
'The Phenom' was originally scheduled to face Chris Weidman for the middleweight title at UFC 173 in May. However, the NAC banned the practice in February of TRT, a medical regimen Belfort was using at the time. In order to be given time to be in compliance with drug testing protocol, Belfort was removed from the card and replaced by Lyoto Machida. That fight was ultimately moved to UFC 175 in July.
Chael Sonnen was also set to face Wanderlei Silva at UFC 175, but that bout was scrapped due to both fighters failing to comply with drug testing protocol, albeit for different reasons. Silva refused to take a random drug test while Sonnen tested positive for two prohibited substances.
Prior to that bout being cancelled, however, Belfort was originally proposed as a replacement for Silva. Belfort does not currently have a license and was originally set to meet with the NAC in June 17, but was removed from the licensing process when the bout with Sonnen was cancelled.
During the course of the hearing, Belfort and his attorney indicated while no bout agreement is in place, the UFC has intended to place Belfort in a title fight against UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman on December 6th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
That bout has now been confirmed as official by the UFC following the result of the NAC hearing.