BEHIND THE SCENES MMA ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS
The Resurgence of “The Phenom”
By Christopher “sLapDatSuCKa” Jester
Very few people live up to their nicknames like Vitor Belfort. Called “The Phenom”, when Vitor Belfort burst on the scene at the age of 19, he was already a force to be reckoned with. In his first fight in mixed martial arts he wrecked Jon Hess in 12 seconds by knockout. With fast and powerful hands, Vitor came into the spotlight when he ran through Tank Abbott and Scott Ferrozzo like they were nothing, blasting them away with some of the fastest punches the sport had ever seen. And not only were they fast but they were powerful. The culmination of the time spent in those two fights was two minutes combined. From the looks of it, he was a phenom indeed.
Vitor Belfort was born in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and while he is primarily known for his boxing, he is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Carlson Gracie. He hasn’t needed to use his submission prowess often in his fights, as his hands can take care of his opponent within seconds. Despite an early setback in his career against Randy Couture, he showed just how accurate his hands can be when he literally ran through Wanderlei Silva at UFC Brazil in October of 1998 in less than 45 seconds. This bout still remains one of his career’s biggest highlights.
At the time, as a pro MMA athlete the money was in Japan, where he traveled to fight in PRIDE. He would win four of five, besting such names as Gilbert Yvel, Bobby Southworth, and Heath Herring. When Zuffa bought out the UFC in 2001, Vitor returned to face Chuck Liddell. But the Vitor that returned had not been the aggressive and fast paced Vitor of old. He seemed a bit more lax in the Octagon and even attempted wrestling to keep the dangerous Chuck Liddell at bay. However, he would lose the fight by decision. Despite, this blown opportunity, he would quickly reemerge as a threat in the UFC when he finished Marvin Eastman in a minute and seven seconds.
The Phenom got his opportunity to fight for the title and it would be a rematch against Randy Couture at UFC 46. The first punch that Vitor threw cut Randy Couture and the fight was stopped. Vitor Belfort had finally accomplished what he had always set out to do; become a UFC champion. But the shining moment of his career would turn grim when his sister Priscilla was kidnapped and she was later found dead.
Vitor’s career and his performances seemed to lose focus due to his personal loss, as he would go on to lose five out of ten bouts, one which included a steroid controversy in his battle against Dan Henderson. Although Vitor claimed not knowing he was injected with this substance and while his doctor admitted to using a substance the athletic commission banned, Vitor was still fined and suspended for nine months. He seemed to revitalize his career when he moved down in weight and began training at Xtreme Couture with former rival Randy Couture. Beating Terry Martin and Matt Lindland opened the door to the UFC again, where his career has begun a new stint to his already successful career.
He won a knockout of the night award when he knocked out Rich Franklin at UFC 103. Subsequently, he was also rewarded a title shot against UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. Several injuries by both men would postpone the fight. But the event finally took place at UFC 126. The fight would end relatively quickly by a now famous front kick by Anderson Silva. The kick would land flush on Vitor’s face and Silva followed up with a couple of punches to end the fight. This sour loss was followed up though by a quick knockout victory of Yoshiro Akiyama; earning him another knockout of the night award.
Since his return to the UFC, Vitor Belfort’s stock seems to have risen tremendously. Despite his loss to Anderson Silva, Vitor is still a dangerous foe at Middleweight. However, heavy-handed Anthony “Rumble” Johnson looks to knockoff Vitor on his quest back to challenge Anderson Silva for the Middlweight title. At UFC 142 on January 14, 2012, Vitor Belfort and Anthony Johnson will indeed prove who the better striker is. But Vitor also have more opportunities in his future.
At a press conference in Brazil, UFC President Dana White announced that Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva would coach the first international season of the Ultimate Fighter in Brazil, and the two would fight at a later date. It will be a rematch that surely will be just as exciting as the first. But Vitor cannot look to his other obligations before facing Anthony Johnson. Vitor’s resurgence in his career, although filled with tragedy, also holds the promise that it is far from over. Vitor is looking to get back in stride and let the MMA community know that he still lives up to his moniker as “The Phenom”.
Follow Christopher “sLapDatSuCKa” Jester on Twitter @sLapDatSuCka
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