July 13, 2008

When you think of legends in mixed martial arts, names like Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz are commonplace. However, it's hard to make a list like that without including the name Vitor Belfort.

Belfort made his debut at UFC 12 where he defeated Tra Telligman and Scott Ferrozzo. He was only 20 years old at the time. He had extremely fast and accurate hands and soon became one of the most feared strikers in the Octagon. His 44-second win over Silva remains as one of the most exciting knockouts in the history of MMA.

"The Phenom" quickly became one of the most popular figures in the sport. However, his career has weathered some ups and downs. He briefly held the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight belt before losing it in his very next fight toCouture. He lost a razor-thin split decision to Ortiz in his last Octagon appearance back at UFC 51. Since then, he's had mixed results in Pride and Cage Rage.

The past has been written for Belfort, but he is looking to author a new future for himself at a new weight class. He will be dropping to middleweight in his next fight this Saturday on Affliction's debut show.

Belfort spoke with MMAWeekly Radio recently to discuss his upcoming fight. "I'm really excited," he exclaimed. "It's a great event. We look forward to it becoming big. The sport's already huge. We just need the right people around the sport; the right promoters taking care of fighters. Everything is right there; it's just waiting for us."

One of the biggest changes Belfort has made is his transition to Xtreme Couture, which is quickly earning a reputation as the premiere MMA training facility today. The training has yielded positive results for the Brazilian.

"I think the mentality of Xtreme Couture is wonderful. It's a great facility, a great group of sparring partners, good trainers. I really enjoy it. Everybody is equal over here. Coach Tompkins is wonderful. I'm having a great time with him and other coaches over here too. I think it's the perfect environment for a fighter. It's been a pleasure. I've developed my skills and I'm ready to go. I'm really enjoying it and being ready for my next fight."

A believer in fight unity, Belfort feels that the fighters are what drive the sport and that they need to stick together outside of the cage.

"We need people who stick together," he stated. "We can fight against each other, but we're friends. We're all on the same page. We're fighting for the same reason. We're trying to put food on the table at home. There is going to be some time when we get together like a union.

"Everybody can watch from each other. We get our respect from the promoters. We get our respect from the fans. When we get that, we'll get more power. Not just to get better pay, but also we are going to have more respect from the fans when they see that we are a union. We are there to fight. We respect each other. We'll help each other. We'll be like a family."

While some stars in sports such as baseball and football have alienated the fans and forgotten who pays their salary, Belfort recognizes how important the fans are to MMA.

"The fans are the ones supporting this thing. All the sports in the world including soccer, American football; without the fans they are nothing. That's why I'm always thinking of them. They are always on my mind. One of the reasons I'm still doing this is for them. I'm really excited to fight in America for my fans."

With an excellent training camp at Xtreme Couture, Belfort feels he is in great shape and ready to resurrect his career to what it was.

"I'm ready to go right now," he said excitedly. "If the fight was to go tomorrow, I'm ready. It's so good to be here and have everyone correct me. Everybody is helping each other. We help so many fighters here. It's like a family. I'm safe. I'm happy. People can look in my eyes and see how ready I am; my body, my mind, my soul, my spirit. I just have to take my time and listen to the trainers. I'm here to accomplish my job."

Some fans have wondered what Belfort's aspirations are at middleweight. Will they witness the return of the "Old Vitor"?

"My goal is Terry Martin. But if you asked me what my goal is to be at the top of this weight division, to fight the best and be the best. That's everybody's goal -- to be in the spotlight. I want to accomplish so many things. One of the things I want is to be the champion and fighting the best. Right now I'm working for Affliction. Whatever is in front of me, I just have to take it. The promoters decide. I have my agent. I'll be ready to go."

Martin is a dangerous competitor who has very good wrestling and power in both of his hands. Belfort realizes the strengths of his Chicagoan opponent, but he feels confidently that he will be ready for wherever the fight may go.

"Terry's a tough guy. He's very strong. He has heavy hands. I'm facing a lion, man. Two lions are going to face each other on the 19th, so I'm ready to go. I'm ready to knock him out. I'm ready to finish him on the ground. I'm ready to take him down. I'm ready for anything!"

You May Like