In the wake of a landmark vote by the Nevada Athletic Commission on Thursday, Vitor Belfort has withdrawn from his Ultimate Fighting Championship title fight against Chris Weidman on May 24 at the MGM Grand.
The decision was announced on Fox Sports Live late Thursday.
Belfort was scheduled to challenge Weidman for the middleweight belt in the main event of UFC 173. Now, Weidman will defend the belt against Lyoto Machida.
The NAC voted unanimously to discontinue the practice of granting therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy, which Belfort has been issued for his past three fights.
In a statement to Fox Sports, Belfort said he has decided to step out of the fight and prepare to continue his career under the new rules.
“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, a former light heavyweight champion, will step up in his place. He is 2-0 since dropping down to 185 pounds to put himself in contention.
“Machida was dominant in his last two fights, beating Gegard Mousasi and knocking out Mark Munoz,” UFC president Dana White said in a statement. “He’s earned this shot at Weidman, who’s coming off two straight wins over the greatest fighter of all time, Anderson Silva. Machida wants nothing more than to avenge the losses of his friend and training partner and become just the third fighter in UFC history to win titles in two separate weight classes.”
Machida also issued a statement to the network.
“I’m really excited for this opportunity to fight UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman,” he said. “I’m going to train hard and be prepared for this fight.”
Belfort’s use of TRT has been a controversial topic. He looked rejuvenated in winning three straight fights in 2013 while undergoing sanctioned testosterone treatments.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter @adamhilllvrj.