UFCThe Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a U.S.-based mixed martial arts organization, recognized as the largest MMA promotion in the world. The UFC is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada and is owned and operated by Zuffa, LLC. This promotion is responsible for solidifying the sport's postion in the history-books.
UFC is currently undergoing a remarkable surge in popularity, along with greater mainstream media coverage. UFC programming can now be seen on FOX, FX, and FUEL TV in the United States, as well as in 35 other countries worldwide.
In a landmark decision, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) unanimously approved a motion to ban the practice of awarding fighters a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in the state of Nevada on Thursday.
The ban is effectively immediately, stretches across the realms of boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts, and not only includes future applicants for TRT, but also users who have received TUEs for TRT from the NSAC in the past.
Commission officials urged representatives from fellow athletic commissions to follow their lead and ban TRT exemptions in their corresponding states.
"I'm comfortable with the information we have before us, and I would welcome and encourage the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions) to look at this issue for all commissions in all states across the country," NSAC Chairman Francisco Aguilar said. "I think it's important that there be a standard set, and I think we're not afraid of making that standard known, and then following the discussion after this point in time."
Minutes after the commission’s decision, the UFC announced that it too will ban TRT exemptions moving forward.
"I do believe that this is something that gives people an unfair advantage for these actual benefits," said Aguilar. "And I think that it's unfair for those fighters who are lucky enough to not have to go through the process. It's not fair to them when they have to meet a competitor who is, somehow, could be (using) an advantage."
NSAC chairman Skip Avansino initially proposed the motion following a discussion of the ramifications of TRT and possibly of a statewide ban. The motion was then seconded by NSAC commissioner Pat Ludvall.
"I know in granting TUEs for TRT in the past, it caused me a great burden because there is always a person there fighting on the other side who isn't asking for anything, who is going to be tested, who is going to be tested randomly, and is clean," said NSAC chairman Bill Brady. "So I think we have an obligation to the fighter who doesn't want an exemption and is clean; an obligation to them to make sure they're getting an honest and fair fight. So if this takes away that judgment that I have never liked, that I've been uncomfortable when I've been involved in it, then I think this is an appropriate motion and one that I support."
The commission's decision arrives just three months before Vitor Belfort, perhaps the posterchild for TRT, is scheduled to challenge Chris Weidman for the UFC middleweight title within the state of Nevada. Belfort's case has long been a source of controversy, as former NSAC executive director Keith Kizer infamously stated that the NSAC would likely reject Belfort's application for a TUE due to his documented history of steroid abuse.
"In my medical opinion, and this is my opinion, I would assume that if someone has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, or is known to have used performance enhancing drugs, I would assume that's the cause of their low testosterone," argued Dr. Timothy Trainor, a consulting physician for the NSAC, when asked by Lundvall if past PED use and the need for TRT is linked.
Trainor estimated that, at least in terms of the general population, less than one-percent of people are affected by primary hypogonadism, which is the leading cause of fighter applications for TUEs. He added that past steroid abuse can replicate the results of primary hypogonadism, leading to the awarding of exemptions for synthetic testosterone for athletes who have "shut down their systems" with PED use.
Aside from Belfort, veteran mixed martial artists Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Forrest Griffin, Quinton Jackson, Antonio Silva, Shane Roller, Todd Duffee and Joe Warren have also received TUEs for TRT from state athletic commissions in the past.
"A license to compete in combat sports is not a God-given right to anyone," Trainor said. "We all need to get a license to drive. Well, you can be denied a license to drive. So, in the same fashion, just because you live and breathe, does not, in my opinion, mean you're allowed to compete in this sport."
The UFC released the following statement Thursday afternoon regarding the NSAC's decision.
"The Ultimate Fighting Championship fully supports the decision made today by the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding the immediate termination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)," said UFC President Dana White. "We believe our athletes should compete based on their natural abilities and on an even playing field. We also intend to honor this ruling in international markets where, due to a lack of governing bodies, the UFC oversees regulatory efforts for our live events. We encourage all athletic commissions to adopt this ruling."
Following the historic announcement on Thursday that the Nevada State Athletic Commission has decided to ban testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) as well as remove any previously approved exemptions for athletes already using the treatment, the UFC has decided to make a monumental change to their upcoming fight card in May.
UFC officials announced on "FOX Sports Live" late Thursday night that Vitor Belfort will no longer fight at UFC 173 following the ruling on TRT and in his place the promotion will now pit Lyoto Machida against Chris Weidman in the main event with the middleweight title up for grabs.
Belfort has been a known user of TRT for the past few years, but it also landed him in the crosshairs of a lot of scrutiny because in 2006 he tested positive for steroids following his bout against Dan Henderson while under the PRIDE Fighting Championships banner in Las Vegas. Performance enhancing drug abuse can cause low testosterone in men so his use of TRT has caused quite a controversy ever since it was revealed that he was using the treatment.
Belfort had planned on applying for an exemption for his upcoming fight at UFC 173, but now with the commission handing down a complete ban on TRT the promotion has opted to remove him from the main event all together.
Because of the new rules handed down on Thursday, Belfort opted to drop out of the fight to allow himself time to come off his TRT treatments and prepare for a bout at a later date.
"The Nevada State Athletic Commission recently altered its policy and no longer will permit testosterone use exemptions, and will not permit a TRT program," Belfort said in a statement. "As other jurisdictions may follow suit, I am going to drop my TRT program and compete in MMA without it.
"Given the time constraints involved between now and my proposed next bout in May, I have determined not to apply for a license to fight in Nevada at this time."
Machida now steps into the main event at UFC 173 following two impressive performances since dropping down to the middleweight division last year. The former light heavyweight champion knocked out Mark Munoz in his 185-pound debut before winning a unanimous decision over former Strikeforce champ Gegard Mousasi earlier in February.
Ironically enough, Machida is also a training partner and good friend of former champion Anderson Silva -- the man Weidman beat to capture the belt in July 2013.
"I'm really excited for this opportunity to fight UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman," Machida said. "I'm going to train hard and be prepared for this fight."
Weidman has been outspoken in his support of an outright ban on TRT, and now because of the change in Nevada it will also result in him getting a new opponent for UFC 173.
"Machida is a dangerous fighter and he knows what it takes to become champion," Weidman said. "He's been on my radar since he drop to 185 pounds so I'm looking forward to defending my title against him at UFC 173 in May."
The UFC middleweight champion enters the fight with an undefeated record while looking for his second title defense since winning the belt last year.
UFC 173: Weidman vs. Machida will go down May 24 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Minutes after the Nevada State Athletic Commission unanimously approved a motion to ban the practice of awarding fighters a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in the state, the Ultimate Fighting Championship followed suit.
UFC president Dana White told MMAFighting.com on Thursday that the UFC will no longer allow fighters to use TRT when fighting on cards in which the UFC serves as the governing body. That typically happens when the UFC holds events overseas in countries that do not have athletic commissions in place.
"We follow Nevada," White said.
White, who had been vocal recently about the dangers of TRT, expressed extreme satisfaction that the NSAC finally banned the controversial use of TRT.
"[I'm] pumped!" White wrote via text message. "Couldn't wait for that garbage to go away."
Last year, White announced that the promotion began randomly testing TRT users on its own prior to fights to ensure that the fighters were not abusing the therapy.
It remains to be seen whether the promotion will also refuse to allow fighters from using TRT in states, provinces or countries with athletic commissions who have not banned it.
Nevada's ban on TRT is effectively immediately, disallowing any past, present or future users from applying for a TUE.
Update: The UFC issued a press release on Thursday's news:
"The Ultimate Fighting Championship fully supports the decision made today by the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding the immediate termination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)," White stated in the release. "We believe our athletes should compete based on their natural abilities and on an even playing field. We also intend to honor this ruling in international markets where, due to a lack of governing bodies, the UFC oversees regulatory efforts for our live events. We encourage all athletic commissions to adopt this ruling."
You can count Chris Weidman among those who are excited about the news that the Nevada State Athletic Commission has banned therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy effective immediately.
"This is an amazing day for the sport," Weidman told MMAFighting.com. "This is something that I've wanted to see happen for quite some time. TRT was and has always been cheating, and I'm glad Nevada finally recognized that, especially since I'm about to fight there against a known TRT user. Hopefully, every other athletic commission follows because this was long overdue.
"If you need TRT to fight, you shouldn't fight. Period."
Weidman is scheduled to fight Vitor Belfort, who has been on TRT for at least his last three fights (all wins), at UFC 173 on May 24 in Las Vegas.
Belfort recently said he would like to see Weidman undergo extra drug testing prior to their middleweight title fight, and Weidman said he had no problem with that.
"I won't do it just because Vitor wants me to get tested. I'll do it if the commission or the UFC asks me to. Absolutely.
"Come to my house, come to my gym. Whatever is good for the sport, I'll do."
New Jersey NOT ready to ban TRT. Will review NV decision first
In the wake of yesterday's news the Nevada Athletic Commission decided to uniformly ban the practice of granting therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), MMA Fighting reached out for comment to Nick Lembo, counsel for the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB), the governing body of combat sports in New Jersey.
Nevada and New Jersey are widely regarded as the two top commissions operating in the United States and historical precedence has shown the states often follow each other's regulatory lead. Lembo tells MMA Fighting that while New Jersey isn't yet ready to fully ban TUEs for TRT use and instead will continue to use International Olympic Committee (IOC) policy-inspired guidelines established by the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC).
Lembo's full statement is bellow:
Since January 1, 2008, NJ has had 4,930 MMA contestants compete in agency regulated bouts.
The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board has only granted one initial TRT therapeutic use exemption of those 4.930 MMA contestants. That one exemption was subsequently revoked when that individual failed an agency required random monitoring test several months subsequent to his NJ bout contest date.
The NJSACB has also honored exemptions to two of the 4,930 MMA contestants based on exemptions originally granted in multiple other jurisdictions and after additional testing and board certified endocrinologist documentation was supplied.
The NJSACB has refused TRT exemptions to over a dozen applicant contestants..
In addition, the NJSACB has never granted a TUE for TRT to any of the multitude of professional boxers, Thai fighters or kick boxers subject to its purview.
At this juncture, the NJSACB will continue to adhere to the very strict International Olympic Committee therapeutic use exemption standards.
Based on the IOC poilcy, the ABC medical committee set forth and published extremely rigorous guidelines for the consideration and granting of TUE's during its presentation to the ABC membership at the July 2011 annual convention.
That being said, we will consider Nevada's decision today and look forward to discussing how to handle the rare candidate who indeed has a true legitimate medical reason for usage. As examples, an individual returning from military duty who has suffered testicular malfunction from an IED explosion, those with pituitary giantism, testicular cancer survivors, and transgender contestants.
We hope that all MMA contestants are subject to repetitive and efficient drug testing protocols without regard to whether a TUE for TRT is at issue. I think we can all agree, regardless of positions on TUE's, that performance enhancing drug testing needs to be analyzed, implemented and continually improved.
As a reference point, I have attached the current NJ TRT TUE consideration requirements which mirror the ABC medical committee guidelines.
The full requirements can be viewed in two parts here and here.
New Jersey, like Nevada, is a hotbed for combat sports promoters from boxing, muay Thai, kickboxing to mixed martial arts. UFC most recently visited the state on February 1, when it staged UFC 169 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.