Vitor Belfort delivers heartfelt message to fans and fellow fighters ahead of retirement fight

Vitor Belfort

Earlier this week, we learned that Vitor Belfort will step into the Octagon for a final time at UFC 224 on May 12. His opponent in this retirement bout will be a long-time friend and fellow Brazilian in Lyoto Machida.

In a lengthy post to Instagram, Belfort explained why he chose to accept a fight with a friend in the final fight of his career. His hope, he says, is that this fight will deliver an important message to his fans and fellow fighters.

I’m over 20 years being relevant in this sport. I broke a lot barriers and paved the way for a generation after me. I am one of the pioneers of the sport and I’m proud it it. I could not walk into the octagon for the last time without sending a relevant message to the: athletes, fans and to the sport itself. That is the reason why I chose to fight a friend of mine. An athlete that I have a lot respect. A good person a family man. I’m against the so famous “trash talk”. MMA is a sport! A sport that myself and a lot of family men work really hard to support our families. Lyoto and I have known each other for many years, I know his family and we have trained together. I wanted this fight to take place in Brazil because that is where everything started and now it’s time for us to send another message to the world. And the message is: RESPECT! May 12th @lyotomachidafw and I will step into the octagon as professionals and we still be friends. Always respecting each other and the way we will do that is giving our best in the octagon. I want people to understand that you don’t have to be a bully to be a fighter, you have to be a real man. And that is exactly what the world is in need, real man willing to pay the price to make a difference.

A post shared by Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (@vitorbelfort) on

“I’m over 20 years being relevant in this sport,” Vitor Belfort said in his post. “I broke a lot barriers and paved the way for a generation after me. I am one of the pioneers of the sport and I’m proud it it. I could not walk into the octagon for the last time without sending a relevant message to the: athletes, fans and to the sport itself. That is the reason why I chose to fight a friend of mine. An athlete that I have a lot respect. A good person a family man. I’m against the so famous ‘trash talk’. MMA is a sport! A sport that myself and a lot of family men work really hard to support our families. Lyoto and I have known each other for many years, I know his family and we have trained together. I wanted this fight to take place in Brazil because that is where everything started and now it’s time for us to send another message to the world. And the message is: RESPECT! May 12th [Lyoto Machida] and I will step into the octagon as professionals and we still be friends. Always respecting each other and the way we will do that is giving our best in the octagon. I want people to understand that you don’t have to be a bully to be a fighter, you have to be a real man. And that is exactly what the world is in need [of], real men willing to pay the price to make a difference.”

In an era of MMA marked by trash talk, bravado and greed, Vitor Belfort’s message is one worth taking seriously. Hopefully it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/18/2018.