When Vitor Belfort steps into the Octagon on Saturday night to meet Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title, it will be the first time he’s fighting in over 16 months.
Following his win over Rich Franklin in September 2009, Belfort fell victim to the injury bug and sat on the sidelines for over a year dealing with the after effects of shoulder surgery, and the subsequent recovery time.
Now that he’s healthy, Belfort isn’t getting a warm-up fight by any means. He’s taking on the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but Belfort didn’t want it any other way.
“It’s never easy when you need to take time off with an injury, especially if you’re in the best time in your career. It’s part of the job, it’s part of what we do. That was my challenge and that was my fight and I overcame it,” Belfort told MMAWeekly Radio recently.
“This is a sport and this is my job, and my job is to fight and to fight my best. That’s the best way you can respect your opponent is to do the best.”
Belfort has been working in Las Vegas, primarily at Xtreme Couture alongside legendary K-1 kickboxer Ray Sefo, while also bringing in other key pieces for his camp including nutritionist Mike Dolce.
In the past however, Belfort has crossed paths with Silva in the training room. While it has been a few years, Belfort and Silva both trained in similar circles in their home country of Brazil, but never got close enough to consider each other teammates.
“We trained before together, we came from different gyms. He came from Chute Boxe and I came from Carlson Gracie’s gym, and then we started to train together when our sport started to evolve, but we came from different cities in Brazil,” Belfort revealed. “I don’t know him really well.”
Rumors had surfaced when the fight between Belfort and Silva was first announced that there was some sort of bad blood between the two fighters, and personal issues were being brought into their bout at UFC 126.
Belfort quickly threw water on that however, saying that he has nothing against Silva, and if Anderson has that problem you’d have to ask him the question.
“This is a business and when it’s done you move on to the next fight. Personal things is just that you get in your best shape and do your best, that’s what’s personal,” Belfort stated.
The two butted heads at the UFC 126 weigh-in on Friday, however, fueled primarily by Silva’s antics, donning a white mask and going nose-to-nose with his challenger.
Regardless of anything personal, Belfort definitely respects Silva as they head into their title bout. Since coming to the UFC, Silva has racked up 12 consecutive wins, multiple title defenses, and has been the No. 1 ranked middleweight for several years now.
“He’s great, he does his job pretty well,” Belfort said about Silva. “He does great and he deserves where he is right now.”
One thing Belfort isn’t focusing on however as he prepares for Anderson Silva is the UFC middleweight title. To him, that is a by-product of the bigger accomplishment, which is winning the fight.
“Right now I’m not focused on that, I’m focused on the fight,” said Belfort. “Because the bottom line is my job is to step in the Octagon for 25 minutes and I have to face (Anderson Silva).”