A spat has developed between Vitor Belfort and a prominent MMA reporter in Brazil after the reporter, Gustavo Noblat, published quotes which Belfort has denied giving.
Noblat reported that Belfort had sat in a restaurant the day after UFC 142 and said that Wanderlei Silva, his rival coach on the upcoming TUF Brazil, has no chin left and will need a new gameplan if he doesn’t want Belfort to KO him when they fight.
After they were published, Belfort went on Twitter and refuted the comments. He said they “sounded strange” and observed that he and Wanderlei have settled their differences recently.
“I'd like to make clear that I did not say anything about [Wanderlei] has no chin @ wandfc [I] said it would be a very hard fight,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that he “always respect[s] opponents.”
But OGlobo.com journalist Gustavo Noblat has countered via the Brazilian forum Portal do Valetudo to explain to the readers what went on when he met Belfort for lunch at Fasano Restaurant in Rio de Janeiro with a group of friends.
“Belfort used the words “he won’t have a chance” and “he doesn’t have the chin”. He also said that it is going to be like the first bout between them and that it will end in knockout. I didn’t put words in his mouth,” he wrote.
“He may have thought I wouldn’t publish it but he would know when he answers a question of a journalist and says “inform Wand to change the gameplan because this [usual] way, he won’t have a chance”… it is obvious the journalist will publish it.”
Noblat added that if Belfort had expressly stated that the comments were off-record he would have abided by that. He claims that Belfort actually approved what was to be published, but has since stepped away from the comments to avoid inflaming Wanderlei.
“Belfort doesn’t want to create a tense environment with Wand and would rather pull back [from these comments]. But he even compared the damage to the chin to the injury [Wanderlei had] on the knee, saying ‘The more an athlete takes hits on the knee, the easier he is to injure’, Noblat explained.
“I didn’t use everything he said because the focus of the column was not Wanderlei. But Belfort approved the column and I believe those fans avid for hot news and backstage stories also liked it.”
While the episode may now serve to damage or even sever relations between Belfort and Noblat, who’s OGlobo employer is a mainstream news source in Brazil, it also serves to highlight the problems reporters face when fighters make candid comments without specifying that they are on or off the record.