Anderson Silva is expected to defend his middleweight title for a sixth time when he faces Vitor Belfort at the yet-unannounced UFC 108 on Jan. 2 in Las Vegas.
After a series of conflicting reports regarding the health of the 34-year-old Silva, UFC president Dana White told The Los Angeles Times Saturday he had secured verbal agreements for the New Year's match-up. MMAWeekly.com subsequently confirmed the news Monday with sources close to the fight.
Silva (25-4) is expected to undergo surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow; a procedure White said would require a minimal amount of recovery time. Silva manager Ed Soares declined comment on the procedure.
Last month, Silva, who holds a UFC record for most consecutive victories with 10 straight wins, returned to devastating form at light heavyweight, knocking out Forrest Griffin with a backpedaling jab at UFC 101.
The booking sidesteps an impasse in contenders brought by the recent victories of top ranked middleweights Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt. White predicted title shots for both fighters in separate interviews, but following UFC 103 on Sept. 19, he indicated the two would fight for the next contender slot and Belfort would be the first to face the current champion.
"I think Vitor is ready now," said White.
Belfort (27-8) made his return to the UFC at the Dallas event after a four-year absence and immediately made his presence felt, knocking out former middleweight champion Rich Franklin in the first round. It was the former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion's fourth consecutive victory since dropping to middleweight last year.