Heavily debated testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) increases testosterone levels, but does it have any positive impact on a fighter's performance inside the cage?
If Strikeforce welterweight champion Nate Marquardt's performance against Tyron Woodley on Saturday night was any indication, the answer to that question is a resounding no. Although he was out of action for nearly 16 months, Marquardt looked as well-conditioned as ever despite abandoning a TRT program he had been undergoing during previous fight preparations.
In his fight for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title, Marquardt became only the second Strikeforce fighter to take Woodley down by executing a beautiful inside trip in the second round. Marquardt was even better on his feet, though, stopping Woodley with a ruthless barrage of elbows and punches in the fourth stanza. This without the use of the TRT regimen that had derailed an otherwise excellent career over the course of the past year.
After Marquardt had a high-profile fight cancelled due to a TRT-related drug test failure, a large portion of the MMA community started campaigning for a more strict stance against the treatment that many believed would give abusers an advantage in competition. Those TRT detractors couldn't have had a better advertisement for their cause than the one they received in Marquardt's knockout of Woodley.
Marquardt wasn't the first athlete to use TRT in an MMA setting, but his failed drug test prior to a scheduled UFC on Fuel TV 4 bout against Rick Story began much of the drama surrounding the supposed remedy for testosterone deficiency. After spoiling the fight card's main event due to his removal from the fight with Story, Marquardt was released from the UFC and endured endless criticism before returning to the cage as a Strikeforce welterweight title contender.
If the catalyst for this epidemic can find success without TRT, then what reassurance would fighters considering the use of TRT have that their decision would pay off athletically?
Recently, MMA stars such as Chael Sonnen, Forrest Griffin and Frank Mir were granted therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for TRT, but they all appeared unimpressive in career-defining fights. Sonnen and Mir suffered deflating losses against champions Anderson Silva and Junior dos Santos that have some questioning whether or not they should retire. Meanwhile, Griffin barely walked away with a win over the now-retired Tito Ortiz and is also fielding questions about his stance on ending his career.
In many ways, MMA is a copycat sport. Take, for example, Silva's front-kick knockout of Vitor Belfort at UFC 126. Since Silva landed that strike, there has been an outbreak of front kick attempts across the entire sport. Now that a TRT-free Marquardt has a championship belt around his waist for the first time since competing under the Pancrase banner in May 2005, don't be surprised if many fighters begin shying away from TRT.