When Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson fight for the third time this Saturday at UFC Fight Night 77, their combined years will total nearly a century of martial arts experience.
In other words, they’re both old as hell.
Simultaneously, this makes them both endearing and endangered; neither will likely compete for that much longer, and opportunities to see them work are becoming increasingly rare.
That’s why their fight, while seemingly meaningless in terms of title shots or serious career resurgences, is somewhat important. These guys won’t be around for much longer, so enjoy them while you can.
In fact, it’s surprising either has lasted even this long. At 45 (the oldest active fighter on the UFC’s roster), and with several world titles under his belt, Dan Henderson has accomplished nearly everything a fighter could hope for in the world of mixed techniques.
He wrestled for the US in both the ’92 and ’96 Olympic Games. He’s competed in five separate one-night tournaments. He claimed both the welterweight and middleweight titles in PRIDE nearly a decade before winning the Strikeforce light heavyweight belt also. He even knocked Fedor out, at heavyweight, when he was 41 years young.
Conversely, Vitor Belfort has enjoyed his fair share of success on the mat as well, winning the UFC heavyweight tournament all the way back in 1997 (the same year Henderson began his MMA career), and later claiming the UFC light heavyweight belt as well after a TKO win over Randy Couture.
Many fighters would kill for a resume like theirs, let alone manage to be consistently ranked in the top ten for nearly their entire career at multiple different weight classes. But it wasn’t without some help; both men have used legal steroids only until recently.
For all the (well deserved) flak Vitor Belfort gets for his Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) use, Henderson was using it years before the Young Dinosaur even knew there was a legal way to use steroids.
So why does Vitor get all the hate that Henderson is seemingly spared from?
First of all, Dan Henderson is as American as apple pie, and he keeps to himself. Many fans didn’t even know Hendo was a TRT user until the substance was banned and he publicly acknowledged he would be getting off the juice.
It could also be that Vitor Belfort was a lot easier to dislike during his TRT reign of terror. When the substance was clearly having a positive effect on his body and performance, Belfort only competed in Brazil; his string of three dazzlingly violent head-kick knockouts (a UFC record) all happened outside of the US, where athletic commissions are known to be less reliable.
What it really boils down to, though, is that Belfort is a known steroid abuser; he popped hot nine years ago after his first meeting with Henderson in PRIDE.
Since then he’s failed several other drug tests. Though not always “in competition”, he consistently operates in a nebulous gray area of TUE’s and abuse, alternating between the two at his leisure and convenience.
In fact, it was only recently revealed that during his ill-fated bid for the light heavyweight strap against Jon Jones in 2012, Belfort had a testosterone level many times that of a normal athlete.
Why it took three years for this information to be revealed is anyone’s guess, but it stands as yet another example of Belfort’s shady behavior.
Either way, here we are now. Two old dudes that no longer have the advantage of chemically enhanced bodies. What will they look like in the cage come fight night? Deflated, defeated, shrunk, and truncated? Any adjective will do, but don’t get your hopes up for a “fight of the year” contender or anything.
That’s not to say the fight won’t be fun, with 32 knockouts between them, something violent is going to happen, so you might as well be there to watch.
After all, it might well be your last chance to see how a Dinosaur fares against an H-Bomb.
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