Vitor Belfort, the man once known as one of the most feared light heavyweight strikers in the world, looks to reinvent himself this Saturday at Affliction: Banned. Belfort will be making his debut at middleweight against UFC veteran Terry Martin. It’s been a long road back for the ‘Phenom’ and a move to Xtreme Couture Las Vegas looks to be just what he needs to reinvigorate his career.
Belfort began fighting professional MMA in 1996, when he was 19 years old. In his first 12 fights, he only lost twice. A TKO loss to Randy Couture and a decision loss against Kazushi Sakaraba. Hardly something any fighter would be ashamed of.
In June 2002 Belfort lost a decision to Chuck Liddell at UFC 37.5 and his fight career began to take a downward spiral. Including the Liddell fight, Vitor was beaten in 5 of his next 8 matches, which included a TKO win over Couture. But the fight was stopped due to an early cut that was opened up on the Natural. Randy avenged it 7 months later.
Critics of Belfort began to question him. They said maybe the fame had gotten to Vitor. Maybe family tragedies had left him unable to care about fighting. Maybe he simply didn’t have it anymore. Critics were sympathetic toward their hero, but could not help asking: Will we ever see the Vitor of Old?
Those close to Vitor knew what he was capable of dealing with. Not just with fighting, but with life. They also knew he would be back.
Since a decision loss to Dan Henderson at Pride 32 in October 2006, Vitor has strung together 2 straight wins in Cage Rage and looks to make it 3 in a row Saturday night in Anaheim. And he’ll do it 20 lbs lighter.
Having to hear constant questions about ‘The Old Vitor’, Belfort moved his camp to Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. After seeing the turnaround XC trainer Shawn Tompkins had given Wanderlei Silva in his preparation for Keith Jardine, Belfort’s management team contacted Tompkins and asked if he would work with the Brazilian.
The answer of course, was yes.
“I’m working as exclusively as possible with Vitor,” said Tompkins. “Vitor just needs to get that aggression back. The same thing we were able to do for Wanderlei, we’re going to do with Vitor”.
This will be Belfort’s first fight ever at 185 lbs but Tomkins assures that there will be no issues with the cut.
“He’s walking around about 10 lbs over and there will be no issue with the weight. He looks great.”
Tompkins helped turned Silva into the animal we were used to seeing, but when asked if he we would see the Vitor of old on Saturday, Tompkins says no.
“You won’t see the Vitor of old. You will see a better Vitor than ever. He really looks unbelievable”
So if you’re looking for the old Vitor on Saturday night, you may not find him. This Vitor looks to be better than ever.