Deadspin reported in September that Vitor Belfort had a sketchy drug test result weeks before a fight with Jon Jones at UFC 152 in September 2012. Belfort appeared to have elevated levels of testosterone. The numbers, though, were never reported and the main event fight went on as scheduled.
Jones didn't know about the test until the Deadspin report came out. He's not surprised about Belfort, a rumored performance-enhancing drug user for years. However, Jones told Ariel Helwani in a sweeping interview last week for MMA Fighting that he is upset the UFC knew before the bout and didn't do anything about it.
"I remember at the weigh-ins, I looked at his abs and I'm like, dude, I'm like several years younger than you and you look way tighter than me," Jones said. "And I knew I trained pretty hard for that camp. Everybody has always speculated Vitor for being on steroids. But to know they put me in there with him knowing he was on them, it's really a slap in the face."
At the time, Belfort was on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which was legal before a February 2014 ban. Belfort supposedly had unnaturally low levels of testosterone and needed a medical boost to get back to the baseline for an adult male. If the testosterone levels reached a certain threshold, though, it would raise a red flag. Even during that period of TRT legality.
UFC senior vice president Dave Sholler said last month that that any suggestion that the UFC was involved in a coverup was "categorically false."
"That period of time with TRT is one that was tricky for everyone: For the UFC, for athletic commissions, and for athletes alike," Sholler said. "I think when everyone came to a conclusion it didn't have a place in the sport and was outlawed in 2014, we were quick to make sure that we too followed suit, as Nevada has said."
Jones, though, said he has a clear understanding of what transpired three years ago.
"Vitor Belfort was on steroids when I fought him," Jones said. "The UFC was very well aware way before the fight. They did nothing to penalize him. They let the fight go on knowing that I was fighting a guy on steroids, which is a hazard to my life."
Jones, who was suspended and stripped of his UFC light heavyweight title in April after a felony hit-and-run arrest, said he has not spoken to executives about the situation.
"I haven't brought it up to them yet," Jones said. "But the fans know. It all gets back to what I was saying about power of the UFC and this athletic commission. Eventually something needs to be done about it.
"I will bring it up eventually. I'm just interested to hear their explanation."
UFC 152 came just weeks after UFC 151 was canceled in August 2012. Jones was supposed to fight Dan Henderson at UFC 151, but Henderson was injured less than two weeks out and the UFC asked Jones to fight Chael Sonnen instead. Jones refused and UFC president Dana White buried him in a media conference call announcing the card was canceled. White ripped Jones and called his coach Greg Jackson a "sport killer."
Jones has not gotten over the turn of events yet.
"They blamed everything on me, made me sound like a coward when I was fighting the greatest fighters that they had to offer," Jones said. "Made me sound selfish. They painted me this picture of being richer than all the fighters and entitled and spoiled. When really I was just trying to stay true to not only myself, but all the people that helped me get here. I'll always hold that dear to my heart, the way they butchered me in the public."
A month after that teleconference, Jones was in the Octagon against Belfort. Jones retained his belt via fourth-round submission, but almost got caught in an armbar in the first round. Those few weeks in 2012 mark a change in the relationship between Jones and the UFC that still has impact now three years later.
"They let Vitor fight on steroids against me," Jones said. "UFC 151 is all my fault. I know I haven't been the greatest guy to work with in the past. I've made my mistakes. But they haven't quite shown me like, 'Hey, Jon. We're here for you. We have your best interests at heart.' It is what it is. I've gotta kind of swallow it, I guess."