Twitter Mailbag: ‘Bigfoot’ Silva’s testosterone woes, Weidman’s UFC 168 reboot, and more
The alert reader will no doubt easily guess which topic dominated submissions to this week’s Twitter Mailbag. Seems that Antonio Silva‘s positive test for elevated testosterone levels after a fight of the year candidate against Mark Hunt at UFC Fight Night 33 lit under a fire under many of you, for reasons I totally understand.
But never fear, this installment of the TMB won’t be entirely dominated by “Bigfoot” and the “Super Samoan.” With UFC 168 on the horizon, there’s plenty to discuss this week, so we might as well get to it.
As always, feel free to aim your own queries at @BenFowlkesMMA on Twitter, but don’t complain if I decide to use them.
@benfowlkesMMA so Bigfoot went with the classic "It wasn't my fault I failed" defense huh? When is this TRT just gonna go away?— TDM (@TMAJE93) December 18, 2013
Not only did “Bigfoot” Silva go with the rogue doctor theory when explaining his positive test for elevated testosterone levels, he did what few other athletes are willing to do and named the doctor in question … who also just happens to be the medical director of the Brazilian athletic commission, CABMMA. In comments to MMAFighting.com, Silva said he plans to sue Dr. Marcio Tannure, who Silva claims upped his testosterone dose leading up to the Hunt fight, resulting in the positive test.
“You go get help with a doctor, you do the right thing, and now this story tarnishes my professional career,” Silva said. “… I felt like a lab rat. I did everything I was told to do and now I’m the cheater.”
Quite the injustice, no? That, or maybe it’s just what happens when you put your faith in the wrong people. According to Dr. Tannure, Silva misstated the extent to which he was involved in the fighter’s testosterone treatments. He claims he was merely relaying messages between Silva and his personal physician, which seems odd to begin with, because why wouldn’t you just pick up the phone and talk to your own doctor? It also seems like a colossal conflict of interest for Tannure to work for both the CABMMA as medical director and as a liason to the UFC, though he apparently did that here as well.
All this should make us suspicious of Tannure’s association with the UFC, and the extent to which he’s capable of being a competent independent medical director for a commission that’s supposed to be regulating the UFC, not working for it. This is the same guy who’s responsible for overseeing other controversial testosterone exemptions, like the one Vitor Belfort has received (for those keeping count, that makes two former steroid cheats granted exemptions in Brazil). When the UFC says that Belfort’s testosterone use is on the level, it’s Tannure’s rubber stamp that’s backing up that claim. It’s presumably also his expert opinion that led to the UFC secretly granting Silva a TUE for his fight in Brisbane, where the UFC acted as its own regulator – a situation fraught with pretty obvious peril, in light of recent events.
The good news, as much as there is any, is that at least the UFC’s drug tests caught Silva, and at least the whole sordid mess didn’t get swept under the rug. That proves something is working the way it’s supposed to here. Clearly though, not everything is.
@benfowlkesMMA Given his medical history (re: acromegaly), could Bigfoot have been the face of justifiable TRT use?— Sean Minogue (@seanminogue) December 18, 2013
Wouldn’t that be a testosterone-fueled kick in the teeth? Supposedly Silva had a cyst removed that was interfering with the normal function of his pituitary gland, and the subsequent medication and treatment then interfered with his normal testosterone production. What if he was that rare fighter – maybe even the only fighter – who truly needed testosterone-replacement therapy for reasons beyond his control? If that’s the case, you’d think he’d be more outraged than anyone at the proliferation of testosterone abuse in MMA. It’s all those other guys who don’t need it who are making those precious few who do look bad, right?
The fact that we have to keep having this conversation about who needs it and who doesn’t only reinforces my belief that the best thing for the sport is to get rid of TRT altogether. If you can’t compete without synthetic testosterone, maybe you should quit. I doubt that would happen if we got rid of TRT exemptions, though. I think more likely would be what we’ve seen in situations like the one involving Dan Henderson in Winnipeg at UFC 161, where he was not granted an exemption and yet did not fall over dead in the cage from hormone-deficiency. Some guys won’t like an outright ban, but something tells me it wouldn’t end many careers.
@benfowlkesMMA If we dismiss Bigfoot/Hunt for "Fight of the Year" should we dismiss Vitor Belfort as "Fighter of the Year?" #TMB— Michael Tse (@dafunk1184) December 18, 2013
That’s where it starts getting tough, is when we have to decide what TRT does to our understanding of individual achievement in this sport. On one hand, how can any of us look back on the Hunt-Silva fight – a fight that was so awesome in part because it was so surprising that these two had that in them (turns out one of them had some help getting there) – and applaud it all over again without cringing at least a little bit? Then again, that was a collective effort, and only one dude was on the juice. If anything, it makes Hunt’s performance seem even more impressive.
As for Belfort, well, it’s tough for me to call you the “Fighter of the Year” if you spent the entire year competing under suspicious circumstances made possible by an increasingly suspicious athletic commission. I mean, I guess I could do it if I had to. I just couldn’t feel good about it.
@benfowlkesMMA What makes Weidman/Silva II different from St-Pierre/Serra II? #TMB— Evan Whitmore (@TheEvanWhitmore) December 18, 2013
For one, Chris Weidman wasn’t an enormous underdog heading into his first fight with Anderson Silva. There were people of sound mind and body who actually picked Weidman to win, and were proven right (though maybe not exactly in the fashion they expected). The thing that makes the rematch so interesting and so tough to call is how difficult it is to determine whether Silva got knocked out because he messed around too much, or if he messed around too much because he couldn’t do much else against Weidman. We should get our answer at UFC 168. I can’t recall the last time I was this excited for a title fight rematch.
@benfowlkesMMA If/when GSP returns, does he get/deserve an immediate title shot?— Ben Howell (@BGHow) December 19, 2013
Absolutely. I don’t care if Georges St-Pierre returns in six months or six years. He left the champ, which means he gets to fight the champ if and when he comes back – assuming that’s the fight he wants. Personally, though? I wouldn’t be the least bit disappointed to see him stay gone. GSP has a career’s worth of accomplishments to his credit already. Anything he does from here on out is just extra.
@benfowlkesMMA Why is Edson Barboza still restricted to pre-lim duties when he's the most exciting fighter on any card?! #TMB— Nick Tiller (@Endoskeptic) December 18, 2013
That might be overstating the case just slightly, but yes, Edson Barboza is obviously pretty awesome. His ability to come back from the beating Danny Castillo put on him in the first round and still explode with killer kicks in the second proves that he is not someone to be taken lightly, or someone to be stuck on prelims. No matter where the UFC sticks him on future fight cards, let it be known that you want to be in your seat when that guy steps in the cage.
@benfowlkesMMA The more I think about it, we need Tate to win this fight. as long as Rousey is champ, WMMA in UFC is in her shadow. No? #TMB— Bill Lavoy (@RumpoPlays) December 19, 2013
Interesting perspective, but sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Winners and losers aren’t determined by who’s better for the division, just like they aren’t determined by who’s kinder or who keeps it realer. Sometimes they aren’t even determined by who worked harder or did more to earn it. Fights don’t tell us who was wrong and who was right, or who’s good and who’s bad. The best we can hope for is that they tell us who the better fighter is, but even that doesn’t always come through loud and clear.
More to your question, though, with the inclusion of the women’s 115-pound division on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” I’m not terribly worried about the future of women’s MMA in the UFC. WMMA doesn’t need Ronda Rousey to lose to free it from her shadow, just like it doesn’t need her to win to keep things going. This little experiment will continue for a while, at least, regardless of what happens with this one fighter who, so far, has only fought once inside the octagon.
@benfowlkesMMA thoughts on Chael having surgery 24 hours before his last fight? #tmb— Remington King (@remboni) December 18, 2013
My thoughts are that the people who actually believed that story should have some surgeries of their own, preferably the kind that involve opening up the skull just to check and make sure there’s still a functioning brain in there.
@benfowlkesMMA PPV, cable packages and now a monthly fee digital network. Is there a more expensive league to follow than the UFC?— Dave Brown (@davebrownradio) December 18, 2013
It always feels unfair to me to include “cable packages” in our gripes about the cost of MMA fandom. Admit it, most of us were going to pull the trigger on a cable or dish subscription with or without the UFC, if only because we learned that watching “The Daily Show” via slow-loading internet clips is just no way to live. The pay-per-views, those do get expensive if you’re dropping $50 a month to watch a sport with no off-season. Then again, you can always go to a sports bar or, as UFC president Dana White would suggest, make more friends to help defray the cost.
So yes, following this sport can get pricey, and at times it feels more like a lifestyle – especially the staying-home-every-other-Saturday-night part – than a mere interest. Still, I suspect people wouldn’t mind paying for the UFC’s product if they had a better accounting of what the UFC takes in and what it pays out to fighters. Most of us recognize that professional cage fighting is hard freaking work. It’d be nice to know what percentage of our dollars go to reward the brave souls who do it.
@benfowlkesMMA You've touched on it in the past, but what ARE the possible alternatives to the current MMA scoring system?— MrJM (@misterjayem) December 18, 2013
As I’ve learned in recent weeks, thanks to a flood of emails, there are many. Some of the ideas out there, such as weighting rounds differently as the fight goes on or instituting half-points to refine the process, are interesting. Others are just weird and mathematically inscrutable, at least to me.
I think our best bet, which is to say our most realistic bet, is improving how the current system is implemented rather than scrapping the whole thing and starting over. State athletic commissions are resistant to change as it is. You’ll have an easier time convincing them that the 10-point must system needs more 10-8s and 10-7s to work in MMA fights than convincing them to adopt some brand-new system that no one else has tried yet. I think the 10-point must can work. I also think it’s up to us to make it work.
Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie.com and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.