You heard him. Vitor Belfort ain’t done yet. In actual fact, he’s sticking around, he says, for not one, not two, but five more fights.
FIVE. MORE. FIGHTS.
This announcement followed a soporific but ultimately successful outing against Nate Marquardt at UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and cleared up some of the fight week speculation suggesting Belfort was either a) retiring from MMA altogether or b) about to have his UFC swansong before moving to pastures new. While we remain unsure whether the Marquardt fight will be his last for the UFC, what we can now at least ascertain, thanks to the revealing of his plan, is that Vitor Belfort, a 21-year veteran, intends to stick around for a little while yet.
The next step for Belfort, 26-13 (1 NC), is deciding where these five fights will take place – meaning, which organisation – and also what kind of fights they will be. Real fights or surreal fights? Contender fights or ‘League of Legends’ fights?
Certainly, the latter, something Belfort has mentioned more than once, might be the best way to secure five winnable matches before he hangs up the gloves once and for all. To that end, perhaps he’ll move to Bellator, an organisation currently having fun with veterans past their sell-by-date but capable enough to hang with other veterans similarly funky in taste and smell. Or perhaps Belfort will simply stick with the UFC. They, after all, are capable of putting Belfort on where he feels most comfortable – Brazil – and boast a healthy middleweight roster from which he can pick and choose fights that best suit his depleting skill-set. Indeed, after the move-around with Marquardt, he said this of the UFC: “That’s the place I want to be, and a lot of things we can change. We can come with the legends league. A lot of things can change.”
As cryptic as ever, let’s try and decipher this at least: who, if he sticks to his guns and continues fighting, should Vitor Belfort fight next? Here are five opponents he may choose (or be forced) to fight before the fat lady sings.
Let’s get this one out the way first. Do I want to see it? No, not particularly. Do we need to see it? No, we don’t. But, in the interests of fairness, Marquardt should at least be in the running. His decision loss to Belfort at UFC 212 was razor-thin and plenty felt he was a hard done by; the judges, they felt, were swayed by Belfort being in Brazil and every attempted strike being cheered to the rafters. The fact the fight flattered to deceive will likely ensure a return never takes place (no great loss), but opponents like Marquardt – 38 years of age, best days behind him – are the middleweights against whom Belfort will have success and therefore look to get matched.
‘The Spider’, we’re told, only has eyes for title shots right now, but you’d image if any non-title fight can tickle his fancy it would be one with Belfort back in Brazil. The first fight, after all, shattered all manner of records and culminated in one of the finest knockouts of Silva’s illustrious career. Does it need a rematch? Probably not. But where there’s money to be made, there’s sense to it, and Silva and Belfort are hardly flush with options right now. Best of all, they are both at a similar juncture in their respective careers and seem to be deteriorating in tandem, making the fight a natural one to make, even if’s not quite the must-watch thriller it was six years ago.
In contrast to everyone else mentioned here, Paulo Borrachina is still in his twenties and still undefeated. For those reasons, I’m perhaps being unfair to Borrachina or Belfort or both. Whatever, the middleweight from Belo Horizonte, Brazil is perfect through ten fights, nine of which have ended in a knockout, fought in Rio at UFC 212, stopping Oluwale Bamgbose in two rounds, and will soon be in need of a name opponent. No, a fight with Belfort might not mean all that much at this stage, but it could be the star-making showcase, especially in Brazil, a red hot prospect like Borrachina craves.
Power and scar tissue aplenty, a rematch between Belfort and Silva has been almost twenty years in the making. If we’re to see either of these warriors continue with their career – a debate for another day – we might as well see them do it against each other. The first fight, if you recall, ended in just 44 seconds. So let’s see them go blitzkrieg for a little longer. First of all, though, let’s find out how ‘The Axe Murderer’, inactive since March 2013, fares against fellow veteran Chael Sonnen at Madison Square Garden later this month. Then we can properly assess the appeal of a battle between 40-year-old Brazilians from a bygone era.
Rampage is seemingly always on the hunt for fights against opponents willing to stand and trade punches with him. No doubt Belfort will oblige on that front. Similarly, Belfort, with 40 MMA fights under his belt, isn’t in any hurry to fight wrestlers or grapplers or men who blur the lines and and offer stuff beyond punches and kicks. In light of that, then, the two, Rampage and Vitor, appear made for each other. They’re big names, icons of the sport, and have somehow never crossed paths before, despite having appeared on near-enough every MMA promotion known to man.