After Anderson “the Spider” Silva’s most recent decisive victory over Forrest Griffin at UFC 101 in August, speculation about who his next opponent would be ran wild. Nearly every possible bout was examined by fans and the media after Silva demolished nearly every contender in the UFC’s middlweight division and walked through the former light heavyweight champion Griffin. When the dust settled, UFC president Dana White announced that the newly acquired Vitor “the Phenom” Belfort would be the man to earn the coveted chance at dethroning the UFC’s perceived best pound-for-pound fighter. The fight is expected to take place at UFC 108 in Las Vegas on January 2nd but is not official yet. Silva reportedly had surgery on his elbow recently which could potentially push the fight back.
Belfort recently returned to the UFC after a four year absence in September and defeated Rich Franklin in the first round with a TKO. He was riding a four fight win streak prior to rejoining the UFC. His last two fights came in the now defunct Affliction promotion where he viciously knocked out Matt Lindland and Terry Martin. Belfort has fought some of the biggest names in MMA including Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture and Wanderlei Silva.
Two of the other likely candidates, Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson, had campaigned openly for the next shot at Silva’s title. Both fighters backed up their request with impressive and decisive wins over strong competitors. Marquardt stopped his last three opponents with his most recent victory a 21 second knockout over submission ace Demian Maia. Henderson, who is also coming off of three straight wins, spectacularly knocked out Michael Bisping at UFC 100 in the second round and defeated former champion Rich Franklin in January with a close split decision win.
Despite the outstanding resumes of both fighters, Belfort was awarded the opportunity to take on Silva. Henderson is currently without a contract and at a stalemate in negotiations with the UFC for a new contract. Marquardt is understandably miffed about the current situation.
“To be honest, I have no clue what’s going on,” Marquardt told HDNet’s Inside MMA. “To me, it’s not logical that Vitor would get a shot after one fight at 195. It was his first fight back in the UFC, it wasn’t even a middleweight fight, and he gets a middleweight title shot? It doesn’t make sense to me, but it’s not my decision, and I don’t really care, I just want to fight.”
When Belfort was asked about the upcoming bout with Silva by Ariel Helwani of Fanhouse.com, he surprisingly agreed with Marquardt’s assessment.
“I didn’t look for the fight. Actually, I’d like to have a couple more fights. But you know, I think he deserves it. Nate Marquardt deserves the fight.” He further explained, “I didn’t call the fight. I’m just an employee.”
If Marquardt and Silva fought before Belfort and Silva, Belfort claims that would be no problem for him. When asked if there was any bad blood between himself and Silva, Belfort explained, “I don’t have a beef against anybody. I’m just a professional fighter.”
The primary reason the UFC chose Belfor ahead of Marquardt and Henderson (excluding his contract status) is probably Belfort has never fought Silva. Marquardt and Henderson have already been defeated by Silva so there may be more intrigue among fans with that matchup. Whoever Silva fights next, fans are sure to watch and look forward to the battle.