by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
Less than one week after losing by unanimous decision to Alistair Overeem in the main event of the Strikeforce show in San Jose, California, Vitor Belfort has been signed to make his return to Pride.
It was announced today that Belfort will fight on the undercard of Pride’s July 1st event in Japan, where he will face another returning Pride veteran, Yoshiki Takahashi.
It would be an understatement to say that Belfort’s signing comes as a surprise. Belfort has lost four of his last five fights, with the lone victory coming against Anthony Rea, and the losses coming at the hands of Alistair Overeem (twice), Randy Couture, and Tito Ortiz. Also, Belfort’s main event fight against Overeem in San Jose last weekend was regarded as so bad that more than half of the crowd left the arena before the fight was over, which is usually not something that leads to a new contract with a major MMA promotion.
Belfort’s opponent, the 37-year-old Yoshiki Takahashi, lost to Heath Herring in early 2004 and then lost to Igor Vovchanchyn via brutal knockout in early 2005. After those two fights in Pride, Takahashi went on to win two fights in the Pancrase organization later in 2005, and he has not fought since then. Takahashi is perhaps best known for his victory over Wallid Ismail at UFC 12 back in 1997, which was a very significant fight at the time because it helped to ignite the Brazil vs. Japan feud in MMA.
Pride also discussed the signing of another Brazilian fighter at the same press conference. Originally announced last week, it was confirmed again by Pride that Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos will be facing Kazuhiro Nakamura in a 205-pound fight on the July 1st card.
Santos has won six of his last seven fights, with the only loss coming at the hands of Melvin Manhoef in England, but this will be Santos’ first fight in an MMA organization on the level of Pride.
Nakamura is a constantly improving Hidehiko Yoshida student who has won three of his last five Pride fights, with losses to Wanderlei Silva and the much bigger Josh Barnett to go along with victories over Kevin Randleman, Igor Vovchanchyn, and Yuki Kondo. Nakamura also defeated Murilo Bustamante and Daniel Gracie earlier in his career.