Vitor Belfort made his first professional appearance in October on 1996. Randy Couture did the same, in May of 1997. The former is 36 years old and still fighting, the latter 49 and retired. Both suffered losses as the result of (spectacular and definitive) front snap-kicks at the hands of The Sport’s finest. Both responded differently to the outcome(s) of those bouts. Both would be considered “elder-statesmen” of The Sport. Both have fan bases that could, would and do still follow and love them.
Couture, post his snap-kick loss, opted to hang it up, Belfort opted to continue on and augment his training with a “sanctioned” TRT regiment.
Note: For the purposes of this post it will be assumed that Vitor Belfort was not on TRT, prior to 2011 and there are no negative tests or findings, to prove otherwise; rightly or wrongly. PED use prior to 2011 will not be considered. It’s simply too large a can of worms and VB is not the only infracter.
Obviously, the quick argument and difference between the two would be age. Couture is 13 years the senior of Belfort.
However and for all-and-any that know, informing “The Natural” that he was 13 years older than his opponent whether it be a street -fight, bar-room brawl or (Octagon) sparring match, wouldn’t mean much in the way of a deterrent, to “Captain America”. He simply wouldn’t care. Don’t knock on that door if you don’t want the door answered, would be my advice to most, if not all, regardless of the fact that The Man is (just) shy of his 50th birthday. In short, if you “ain’t” ready for “it”, don’t bother…even if he is 50.
In Belfort’s case, the question of his willingness to fight is rendered a moot by the simple fact that he’s still fighting and (that he’s) fighting the best of not his generation, but (rather) the generation that has come after him. TRT equalizers or not, it’s an impressive feat. He is 36 after all and has been fighting professionally since 1996, as hard as that may be to believe.
With that said, where Couture packed it in and regardless of the 13 year age difference, Vitor continued on via the aid of TRT.
Taking that into consideration and NSAC sanctions aside, many have derided, ridiculed and even called into question / ill repute, Belfort’s late-of-age success @185 and believe it to be (rightly or wrongly)nothing more than the result of (his sanctioned) TRT USAge. Belfort has denied these allegations, stating that his TRT therapy is nothing more than a methodology, which allows him to continue to compete against other, much younger, fighters. In a nutshell, his contention is that it levels the playing field, not distorts it. Which is to say, that his TR therapy does nothing more than bring this “T” levels equal to that of his (younger) opponents.
Fair enough if the NSAC says so.
However, what about those that see TRT use as outright cheating? First amongst which would be Dana White.
For a moment, let us accept at face-value that they have a point and that it is cheating and more specifically, that it’s cheating in an effort to beat “father-time”, which as we all know, cannot be KO’d, TKO’d, submitted or taken to a judge’s decision. When father-time says it's over, it's over and there's nothing that can be done about it.
If this is the case and in an effort to assuage those that consider (sanctioned) TRT cheating, while @ the same time, not offending a fighter’s fans, those that tolerate or excuse TRT simply because they (selfishly) wish to see their heroe(s) continue on past their “sell-by-date”, might the solution to the problem (simply) be Seniors MMA and a “cut-off” date, set either by age or TRT USAge / necessity?
To put it in practical terms, the question for MMA fans would become this….in an effort to rid the sport of TRT, would you support (a) Seniors MMA promotion, given that there were no TRT sanctions and that it was only open to fighters of a (to be) “determined” age or TRT(USAge) requirement?
Under this formula, for example, fans would have the pleasure of watching their favorite fighters continue (on) for years. The fighters, in exchange, would have the comfort of knowing that they are not expected to compete with the best-of-the-best, of a generation half their age.
Exampling…Anderson Silva is 38 years old and as great and healthy as he is and for the complete lack of (true) punishment he’s taken in The Octagon, he is, none-the-less, 38 years old. There is a point to which even a Wizard the likes of Anderson Silva, succumbs to the follies of times. With that said, there are a field of fans (at least one would assume, me being one) who would gladly continue to follow his exploits against fellow greats, such as Vitor Belfort, should such a league / round-robin present itself. I, for one, would be more than happy to see Sonnen get another kick @ the can, under an SMMA umbrella. Something that would never happen under the current structure and never happen, given the "current" longe
So, the question becomes, in an effort to rid the sport of TRT, most of which will be sanctioned for older, “marquis” fighters that we’ve all followed, rooted for or against and loved for years…would you support or advocate for, Seniors MMA? All of which would be under a singular understanding, that if you need TRT, then you need to be moving onto SMMA. De facto, there is no more acceptable waiver which may be sought, within The UFC’s MMA promotion. Further to that, there would be no TRT exemptions for the SMMA, promotion.
Personally, I’d support it; enthusiastically.
To sum up and keep it within perspective, Fedor Emelianenko, for example, is “only” 34 years old. He is considered by many to be the greatest MMA fighter of all time. However, as a result of time, circumstance and management, MMA fans never got to see many of the great fights that they would like to have seen, regarding The Last Emperor. Under an SMMA umbrella, all of those fights could be possible. Postulating…anyone up for Fedor vs. Henderson 2? Dan is (nearly) 43, after all. Personally, I’d love to see it. However, under the current structure and given their respective career longevity's, it'll never happen, unless it happens uner an SMMA banner.
A further tempting of series of question to MMA fans – would you like to see Fedor vs.…Randy or Anderson? Is there anyone who might care to see Hughes / Serra 2 or Penn / Hughes 3? In a few years’ time, might you be interested in seeing GSP vs. “X”, Machida vs. “Y” or anyone of a number of fighters that you’ve followed and loved over the years, continue on and all at relative levels? My affirmed answer is a resounding – Yes. How great would it be to see Mark Hominick back in The Octagon, for example?
To the point, if the fighters are willing, able and have the heart to continue on, then my prediction is /would be that the fans would / will have the interest in continuing on (watching their favorite fighters), as well.
It would be my assertion, for example and in furtherance of the argument, that Silva / Belfort 2 would garner as much interest in a Seniors circuit, as it would or might, in the “main” circuit.
Chael Sonnen, is another example of a marketable fighter who is not long for pasture, who could continue to provide quality fights and entertainment value to the fans, should he be provided the platform. BJ Penn and Nick Diaz, who often speak of retirement, might also be fighters / candidates who might be interested in such a format.
Regardless of whether or not you see the merit of the argument, what cannot be diminished is that there are a lot of great fighters who have already gone to pasture or are not long for pasture, who still have a great deal to offer…under the right circumstance(s). To be even more blunt and from a business perspective, there is (literally) hundreds of millions of dollars of (still valuable) fighter marketability out there, from Couture to Penn, which can / could be marketed to an adoring and ravenous fan base, all of whom know and love these fighters. It would be a shame to let it all go, simply because a fighter cannot perform at the same level(s) that the used to, when they were 25. It actually flies in the face of everything that any of us have ever been taught (in DoJos'), regarding respect for your elders and reverence for (the) knowledge which is garnered over decades of study and practice.
Regarding SMMA, I know that I for one would tune in to the events, buy the PPVs’ and wouldn’t care about rankings (particularly if it was a (Bellator style) round-robin. I’d simply be happy to see my (all-time) favorite fighters continuing to fight. Ortiz vs. Couture 2 for the SMMA 205 belt, for example, would be a fight I’d sit down and watch, as most MMA fans would, particularly if it was a “free” event. It's the type of programming I'm sure a network like FOX would love. Cards full of nothing but marquis fighters. They could sell that all day long.
The biggest regret about this whole equation is that Chuck Liddell can’t be factored into it. That sucks. Fans would be banging @ the door to buy tickets to Liddell vs. “anybody”. Sadly, we all know it can’t happen. However and with that said, that does not mean we can’t hold on to the other fighters we love while and if they’re willing and still have the passion of The Fight and The Crowd, then why not?
Dana always says the he wants to give The Fans the fights that they want to see....okay, I want to see SMMA and all the great fighters I've mentioned and all those that I have not. I want to see my heroes continue on past the age of 35 or 40. They have far too much to offer, to just let it all go.
Great fighters shouldn't just fade away; they should be allowed to move onto SMMA.
God I love this sport.