EDITORIAL | Vitor Belfort: A Lion’s Heart That Beats for Gold
By Jake Chastain
| It is no secret that Vitor Belfort is one of the most skilled, dangerous, and accomplished MMA fighters on the planet. It is also no secret that he has been compiling accolades for his uncanny MMA resume for over a decade. Here is the curious part…his best performances may have not even been seen yet.
Vitor, at the age of 36, has the remarkable chance to cap his resume off with the metaphorical ‘cherry on top’ if he can bring home another victory tonight in his homeland of Brazil as he faces former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. A win over Rockhold would be an extremely huge accomplishment in itself but it’s what the victory could get him that will carry the most significance.
Belfort has accumulated a who’s-who type of list on his record. He holds notable wins over legendary names such as Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Tank Abbott, and Matt Lindland. He also holds amazing victories over new-breed MMA stars such as Anthony Johnson, Rich Franklin, Michael Bisping, and Yoshihiro Akiyama. Belfort’s record stands tall and respectable at 22 wins and 10 losses but I think the most respectable part of that record is that, with the exception of one loss, Belfort has only lost fights to either current or former MMA champions. That list consists of names such as Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Alistair Overeem, Anderson Silva, and most recently Jon Jones.
Belfort has managed to fight at the top level of the game since he’s entered the MMA scene way back in 1996. He was fighting in the UFC in only his second MMA fight and won the UFC 12 HW Tournament in only his third professional fight at the age of 19. Since then Vitor has made his rounds, fought in almost all of the biggest MMA promotions and fought almost all of the biggest names in the game. He’s a multiple time champion and since his last return to the UFC back in 2009 Vitor has only lost to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, both for the UFC title.
He’s arguably one of the most exciting knock-out artists in the history of the sport and yet we almost saw him submit Jon Jones in a beautiful arm-bar from his back just a few months ago. With a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and the explosiveness that makes dynamite jealous Vitor is hands-down one of the most highly evolved, experienced, and entertaining fighters that the sport has ever seen. And to top it all off, he says that he’s only just begun.
A win tonight over Luke Rockhold, which will not be an easy feat, could easily gain Vitor another shot at the coveted UFC gold that, despite experiencing so much success over his career, he hasn’t held since 2004.
Anderson Silva is defending his title against Chris Weidman at UFC 162 in July and a win for Belfort tonight could earn him the winner of that fight for the UFC middleweight title.
Belfort, having already lost to Silva once for the strap in 2011, has stated that he doesn’t seek a rematch with Anderson but is instead just chasing that belt, regardless of who holds it. Weidman, who is an undefeated young new-breed of the MMA game, is a big threat to Silva’s strap but Vitor doesn’t care if it’s Silva or Weidman…he just wants the belt. And his remarkable evolution and success over his 17 year MMA career have left him one win away from threatening either one of those fighters for the UFC middleweight title.
The way Vitor has stayed relevant and dangerous over the years has been unreal. Although he’s fought in this game for much longer than many other fighters we don’t view him as a Randy Couture or Dan Henderson type fighter that is defying the laws of Father Time. Vitor, although he’s been fighting for so long, is still only 36 and is looking better than ever. We could very well see the best performance of his career tonight against Rockhold and if that happens then we will probably see Belfort vying to take on Silva or Weidman to once again try to rein atop the MMA world as UFC Champion.
But first things first: Rockhold looks to play spoiler to all of this and Vitor will have to prove once again that he is still, after all of these years, “The Phenom” of the MMA world.