Former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort will take on current UFC middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva this Saturday night in what will be the biggest fight of his career so far. In addition to the fact that a title is on the line, Belfort believes that his impending fight with his former training partner Silva holds strong implications in regards to public perception of the sport of mixed martial arts.
Belfort recently told Bruce Buffer on his Sherdog Radio Network program It’s Time! that he thinks his bout with “The Spider” has the potential to make history and help legitimize MMA in the eye of the general public.
“This is a sport,” Belfort said. “After this fight, I really think Anderson is going to look back and say, ‘Man, this fight [made history] in the sport.’ We’re proving this is a sport. … I believe after this fight, many fighters many years from now, they’re going to see how it was important that this fight happened for the sport.”
Watching yesterday’s tension-heavy staredown between Silva and Belfort gives clear evidence that there is a personal element to this bout between former friends and training partners, even if both men downplay that aspect of the fight in interviews. Reportedly, Silva took it as a slight when Belfort entered into the UFC’s middleweight division looking for a shot at his title since the two once shared a deep-rooted friendship. Belfort told Buffer that the prospect of pitting two of the world’s very best middleweights against one another and advancing the image of the sport supercedes any personal relationship he and Silva once had.
“Pretty much people are going to start changing their perspective because this is what people want to see,” said Belfort. “People want to see the best fighters fighting the best fighters. It’s hard. I know a lot of people take it personal, but what’s personal? People don’t recognize that. What’s loyalty? Loyalty is you taking care of your family. You being the guy that you preach that you are. Living the words that you say.”
Not only is Belfort not taking the fight personally or feeding any story lines of a grudge between himself and Silva, he is complimentary of his fellow Brazilian, even if he pledges not to give an inch once they enter the cage.
“I respect Anderson Silva’s skills a lot, as a person too,” Belfort said. “It’s a competition. It’s going to be a battle. I hope I can leave with a victory. I’m going to fight for that, but I can promise you guys one thing: that I’m not going to back down. I’m going to do my best.”
Belfort and Silva square off this Saturday night in the main event of UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort, which will go down at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Don’t forget to check back at FightLine.com for our live, ongoing coverage of the fight card.