Could TRT become a common issue in MMA?

When Nate Marquardt was pulled out of the UFC on Versus 4 main event last weekend, I was shocked to say the least. I just talked Nate a few weeks ago regarding his main event fight with Rick Story and he sounded like he was ready. He said his cut to welterweight was going well and he sounded more than capable to take the challenge Rick Story would have provided him. Then from left field on the day of the weigh-ins, UFC president Dana White drops a huge bomb, and set the Twitter on fire. He releases a video announcing to the world that Nate Marquardt failed his pre-fight medical test and was released from the promotion immediately.

At the time it wasn’t announced why exactly Nate failed his testing and the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission left it in the hands of Mr. Marquardt to explain himself. But while we were waiting for the reasons why this all happened, all fans and media could do at the moment was make educated guesses. Some people thought Nate had an STD; some said he may have even tested for an illegal substance or performance enhancing drug to help him make the cut to welterweight. The whole MMA world was buzzing until Nate himself finally went public Tuesday with his announcement.

Live on the MMA Hour hosted by Ariel Helwani on MMAfighting.com, Nate Marquardt and his manager Lex McMahon appeared live in studio to answer our questions. Keeping this short, Nate finally explained and shared his situation to the world.  In August 2010, Nate was suffering from sluggishness, memory loss, and mood swings, which of course led him to see a medical professional. His doctor discovered the reason for his symptoms is due to low levels of testosterone and recommended TRT.

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Now like most of you who are not doctors, my first reaction to the news was “what is a TRT”? I went on Wikipedia, various medical websites, and what I learned was TRT stands for testosterone replacement therapy. According to medicinenet.com, testosterone is a hormone produced by the testicles and it’s responsible for giving men male characteristics. It’s a very important hormone that helps maintain muscle bulk, red blood cells, bone grown, a sense of well-being, and sexual function.

I’m obviously no doctor, but I think all men around the world can agree that having low levels of testosterone is not a good thing. But hearing about Nate’s situation reminded me of another very familiar sounding one. You guys remember Chael Sonnen, that guy who challenged for Anderson Silva’s middleweight title last summer? He was suffering from a very similar situation, but the UFC hasn’t treated him the same as Nate. In fact, it’s no secret that the UFC has been trying very hard to get him back in action.

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Now I’m not trying to play the blame game on any party and I’m not trying to say if hormone injections are right or wrong. Our good friend Matthew Roth from headkicklegend.com explained to my editor Anton Gurevich that a very common reason for low testosterone levels can be due to “sweaty” activities like hard training, cutting weight, and using a sauna. We all know Nate was working very hard to reach the 170 mark and what else do you do when you are trying to make weight? You work hard and you sweat hard.

This probably won’t be the last time we hear about testosterone replacement therapy. In fact, we might even hear about more cases of them in all of combat sports. Is it a form of cheating? Could it give a fighter an edge? I don’t know; I’m not qualified at all to make such statements. But I think I can speak for others when I say as fans we deserve a sport where the playing field is level for all competitors involved. That our fighters deserve the proper medical treatment before, after, and in-between fights.

As for Nate Marquardt, love him or hate him you can’t help but admire the fact that he did the right thing and publicly addressed his situation. He didn’t have to make his appearance on the MMA Hour and we could have played this guessing game forever. Regardless of what has happened so far, we can’t take away the fact that he is one of the most accomplished fighters this sport has ever seen. Time heals all wounds, whether he fights for the UFC again or not he’ll have a job somewhere doing what he loves once again.

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This situation should also open the eyes of commissions for our sport everywhere. We need re-evaluate what kind of treatments or hormone levels should be acceptable. Or should it be Olympic style, zero tolerance?  The livelihood of our fighters is at stake. The reputation of our growing sport is on the line too. We need to have clear guidelines and regulations to help give the sport of Mixed Martial Arts the respect it truly deserves.

Don’t be shy and give me your two cents in the comment box. Agree? Disagree? Pull no punches and let’s take this discussion further. 

Photo: Anderson Silva, bottom, fights Nate Marquardt during UFC 73 at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, CA on July 7, 2007. Photo credit: Francis Specker

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