Ariel Helwani, MMA Insider and frequent host of "UFC Tonight" on Fuel TV, presided over a panel discussion with four UFC veterans to get their thoughts on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) and how to manage training for a fight to minimize injuries.
Ariel is joined by UFC Analyst, Kenny Florian, middleweight contender, Michael Bisping, former light heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans and welterweight champion, Dominick Cruz, who is recovering from a knee injury. Florian injured his back and retired from fighting.
Debating TRT and fighter injuries
Based on listening to the conversation, there is still much to discuss and much to learn about keeping the playing field even: either everyone can use TRT or no one can. Plus, rethinking training plans to better coordinate amongst separate skill-based coaching teams and--just as important--choosing the right sized sparring partners (not too heavy) and determining how hard to spar with each partner as the fight camp progresses.
The great unknown with fighters getting injured are the "freak accidents" that happen during training. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, going too hard or just twisting or turning the wrong way can cause a fight-ending injury or contribute to the list of small injuries (like Bisping's pinky finger that he mentioned in the video) accumulating prior to fight day.
Ariel tweeted video clips from the show.
The Great TRT Debate video
Helwani: Should fighters be allowed to use Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)?
Florian: "Well, there are two thoughts on this. Either everyone should be able to use this across the board or it should be banned. There are a lot of ways around it. A lot of guys can say their testosterone is low because they are coming off a cycle, but it allows my opponents or their opponents to train much harder than me...drillers are killers...If I'm drilling more than these guys, that's a lot more training sessions over my opponents. The hardest thing about a fight is being able to get your training in."
Bisping: "I think it's nonsense. When you are 21, testosterone is flowing at its max and as you get older it lowers and when you're a 40 year old you start slowing down. The whole thing is ridiculous. Nobody should use anything. If you tested them three of four times a year, then you wouldn't be able to cycle and it wouldn't be an issue."
Evans: "This is a professional sport, people are going to find a way to get an edge and you're saying it's not fair for everyone across the board, but everyone can get it. People will find it anywhere, if they want it. The commission allows four-to-one or six-to-one in some places, so now you have guys coming in with four or six times the advantage. It should be allowed or cut completely."
Cruz: "I'm cutting so much weight, I can't even think about TRT. I wouldn't make weight, if I put anything in me. The other issue is, it's a huge help to what you're doing in the sport, but is me adding TRT going to take me from a blue belt to a black belt? No, I still need to know technique. But what it does help, is conditioning. But, you can't double the workload if you have something in your system."
UFC Power Panel Debates MMA Injuries video
Cruz:"...You work hard and you tell your coaches to train you hard. That's what your coaching staff is for. My job is to go into practice and do what my staff tells me. I don't know what I'm doing when I go in there. I do what I am told...The only way to get ready for a fight is to be in a fight in practice. And, the point in this sport, is to hurt the other person whether you're practicing or not. So no matter what you do, you're close to injury in every single practice. It doesn't matter how light you go, how hard you go, it just happens."
Florian: "There's a bunch of things involved as a fighter. Dom is correct; you go in there and do what you're told. We're like soldiers. The problem is that it's still a new sport. We're in a grey area. The coaches don't know how to mainstream the practice. We go to all of our different practices and conditioning and we're at different places. The coach can't be at all those places at the same time. So now, I have a coach who is pushing me in boxing, sparring, conditioning, jiu jitsu. And neither one knows how hard the other is pushing me. Everyone's ability to handle the volume of training is different and sometimes we push ourselves too far. We're still learning the scientific ways of training and then we will learn what's too far."
Evans: "Because there are so many facets of the sport and you have to perfect all aspects of it, it's hard to say. It is different with each fighter. You have to know when to pull yourself back. That's what it comes down to--because no one is going to pat you on the back and say that today is your rest day. Because you become addicted to training and when you have a rest day you feel weird that you're not working out. You train in gyms with a bunch of different fighters and freak accidents happen."
Should TRT be allowed for fighters who need it?
With so many injuries cancelling fights, it's obvious that something is wrong with how some fighters are training. What are your recommendations or suggestions for training effectively and safely?
Source: Twitter, "UFC Tonight" on Fuel TV show notes 07/31/12
More from this contributor:
Cheryl Ragsdale started out boxing and has added kicks and BJJ so she can practice MMA. Currently, she trains with Keith Florian and has trained with UFC Fighter Kenny Florian at Florian Martial Arts - follow @thatgirlisfunny