Former coach: Belfort as strong as ever

According to his former coach, Kenny Monday, Vitor Belfort is as strong as ever -- even without TRT. AP Photo/Andre Penner

Kenny Monday, former Blackzilians wrestling coach, will acknowledge one thing: Vitor Belfort's physique changed as he came off testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT).

Belfort (24-10) is expected to fight Chris Weidman for the UFC middleweight title early next year. He was originally scheduled to do so in May, but was forced to withdraw when the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned TRT from combat sports in February of this year.

Since discontinuing his use of testosterone, Belfort, 37, has noticeably lost size. In medical records he posted online, his serum testosterone levels plummeted from 1,472 nanograms per deciliter in February to 142 ng/dL, considered below average, in May.

Weidman (12-0), among other middleweights, has taken shots at Belfort's physical change on social media this year. Luke Rockhold has questioned whether the Brazilian will even make it to the cage when the title fight is booked.

Monday, who was part of Belfort's camp when the NSAC banned TRT, told ESPN.com that from his perspective, the change in Belfort was entirely cosmetic.

"From my point of view, Vitor was and still is the hardest working guy in the gym," said Monday, who parted ways with the Blackzilians in May. "I worked with him after he got off the TRT and his strength level didn't change. He was very strong. He's still a strong guy. His physique did change quite a bit, but I think that was water retention. The strength level was the same."

An Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, Monday's work with Belfort obviously focused on the grappling aspect. He joined the Blackzilians in April 2013 and said Weidman was always on his radar as a potential future opponent for Belfort. Weidman is a former collegiate wrestler, who would seem a prime candidate to want to take Belfort to the mat.

One concern about athletes coming off TRT for the first time is stamina. Monday said he couldn't speak specifically to that aspect of it since he won't be there to see Belfort's peak condition ahead of a fight, but reiterated his confidence in Belfort's work ethic and Blackzilians boxing coach Pedro Diaz.

"I haven't been around to see that part of it," said Monday. "I always pushed him very hard in wrestling practice when I was there and he would respond. I know he's on a great strength and conditioning program with Pedro Diaz."

Monday, who now works with Team Takedown in the Dallas area, said that based on his previous work with Belfort (on TRT and off), he expects him to beat Weidman when that fight happens.

"I've spent a lot of time with him in those (wrestling) positions," Monday said. "I thought then, and I still think now, that he'll win. I know he's a better boxer than Weidman. I know that for a fact."