Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort may be a new name to some fans but for many others he is well known for having always been a fighter teetering at the cusp of greatness. He threw himself into the MMA scene at UFC Ultimate Brazil in 1998 at the age of 19 with a blitzing knockout of Wanderlei Silva but went on to a career peppered with inconsistent performances that found him in every notable MMA promotion of the past ten years. In 2009, after a string of impressive wins, Belfort found himself back in MMA’s biggest promotion headlining UFC 103 with a 195lbs catchweight bout against Rich Franklin which he would win by TKO.
So it was met with some controversy when the announcement was made that Vitor Belfort would be the next to challenge feared UFC middleweight kingpin Anderson “The Spider” Silva for the 185lbs title. Everyone from top contender Nate Marquardt to the champ himself voiced disdain over a newly re-minted fighter gaining a title shot after one win in a separate, actually non-existent, weight division.
As the rumors emerged that Belfort was being looked at as the next title challenger not only did Silva’s manager Ed Soares declare that Belfort was undeserving and campaign for another opponent, but “The Spider” uncharacteristically threw a bit of mud Belfort’s way by issuing this quote to Fighter’s Only Magazine: “Vitor Belfort is not a friend of mine. If this fight gets real I will be training for that. I respect him and we even trained together but now it’s easy…” Silva has been very vocal with his feelings that Belfort somewhat betrayed him after training with the champ at his home gym, “Black House”, and then agreeing to fight him for the title.
Even though Belfort repeatedly insisted that he did not ask for a title shot, it was evident at the UFC 112 press conference in Abu Dhabi that it did little to assuage tensions. With recent comments made to Figher’s Only Magazine Belfort seems tired and slightly bemused by the criticism he has received and Anderson Silva’s attitude towards him.
“Anderson seems upset, I don’t know what that was about. Anderson seems upset or angry I don’t know. We did get into each other’s faces. But there was no kissing. Some people like the staring. But it doesn’t matter in the fight who can stare for a long time or not.”
In a turnaround from the passive stance he has taken throughout this ordeal, “The Phenom” remarked, “I won the heavyweight tournament in the UFC, I won the Light Heavyweight Title, and I want the Middleweight Title.”
Always humble and always one with a kind word, Belfort expressed gratitude to the fans that see him as a deserving contender and had this to say about the champ , “Anderson is very good. He is very dangerous and his has all these weapons. But I have a very good chance.”
Both fighters are known for their explosive knockouts, technical prowess and intensity during a fight. With this extra tension as motivation fans would not be foolish to expect fireworks in the cage when these two meet.
UFC 112 is scheduled to take place in an outdoor arena in Abu Dhabi on April 10. Also featured on the card is a lightweight title fight that will see dominant champion BJ Penn take on Frankie Edgar and a welterweight tilt pitting Matt Hughes against Renzo Gracie in his UFC debut.