When the Manitoba Combative Sports Commission recently revealed it didn’t grant any therapeutic-use exemptions for June’s UFC 161 event, it raised more than a few eyebrows. After all, shouldn’t have MMA legend Dan Henderson‘s name appeared on the list?
Henderson (29-9 MMA, 6-3 UFC), who has been granted exemptions (TUEs) for his use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) since 2007, said there’s a simple explanation for why he didn’t receive an exemption for the event: He pulled his application when it seemed the Manitoba commission wasn’t likely to approve it.
“It didn’t look like they would approve it, so I just quit taking the testosterone,” Henderson told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I stopped about six to eight weeks out. I was told by my doctor that wouldn’t be a problem at all. I wasn’t using that much, anyway.”
Henderson fought in the main event of UFC 161, which took place June 15 in Winnipeg. After a 15-minute affair, he was handed a split-decision loss to Rashad Evans. Afterward, Henderson was one of 10 fighters tested by the commission for drugs of abuse (such as marijuana and cocaine), as well as anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancers.
Henderson’s test was clean, as were the others’.
Henderson, who turns 43 years old next month, was first granted a TUE in Nevada based on a diagnosis of hypogonadism, also known more simply as low testosterone. Hypogonadism can be caused by a number of issues, but Henderson said the Manitoba commission was looking for something more specific.
“I guess they won’t approve it unless you can prove a physical problem with your body that would explain why you need it other than just testing low for testosterone,” Henderson said. “You have to give them a reason why your body has a physical ailment, such as your pituitary gland or something. That wasn’t my case. They weren’t going to approve me, so I didn’t even apply for it. After they spoke with my doctor, I just withdrew my application.
“My doctor, this is his primary field, and there’s not always a way to pinpoint the reasoning to why people need testosterone. Sometimes there’s trauma to the testicular area or maybe the pituitary gland. Who knows? It could be testicular trauma. I’ve been hit in the balls a lot. But there’s no real way to show that.”
Henderson said his training camp didn’t suffer greatly because he was not cleared to maintain his TRT use, which he insists is always properly monitored and only utilized to bring his levels up to what is generally considered “normal.” He did notice a few minor flare-ups with a lifelong asthma condition and did feel a little fatigued at times, but he said that’s not unusual for an athlete in the middle of preparing for a high-level MMA contest.
“I didn’t feel too big of a difference,” Henderson said. “I was a little tired here and there, but that’s not too different from all my other training camps. My last couple camps, I’ve been having some problems with my chest, some asthma. As a kid, I had exercise-induced asthma, and I felt the testosterone made a difference there. But who knows?
“It’s hard to tell. I never noticed a huge difference. I just know my doctor says it’s healthier for me. I know I was getting sick less often when taking TRT, and I seemed to have more energy.”
With UFC 161 behind him, Henderson has resumed his prescribed dosage of TRT. Whether or not he’ll be able to continue the treatment in future fight camps is up to whatever athletic commission ultimately oversees the bout. Henderson certainly would prefer to keep his routine the same but seems to feel he’s fine with whatever needs to be done.
“A lot of people seem to think if you’re on TRT, it’s like a wonder drug and you’re automatically going to win fights, or you don’t have to work hard,” he said. “But I work my ass off with or without it.
“It was a little bit frustrating, but it wasn’t a huge issue. There was nothing I could do about it, so I just moved forward.”
Henderson said he hopes to fight once more before the end of the year but has yet to receive his next assignment from the UFC.
“I’m hoping to fight in December,” Henderson said. “I’d like to take the summer off and hang out with the kids and then fight at the end of the year.”
For complete coverage of UFC 161, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.