Vitor Belfort wants a UFC middleweight title fight and ONLY a UFC middleweight title fight. He doesn’t want to fight for an interim slice of the championship. For Belfort, it is all or nothing.
And with current champ Chris Weidman injured, it looks like it’s going to be nothing for Belfort. At least until Weidman’s ribs heal.
The title fight between Weidman and Belfort has been in the works for about a year.
They had been scheduled to fight at UFC 173 in Las Vegas last May, but Belfort opted out of the fight when Nevada changed its rules regarding therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy, which Belfort had been utilizing.
Lyoto Machida replaced Belfort, but the May date was nixed after Weidman suffered a knee injury. Weidman and Machida instead fought in July, with the champion defending his belt via unanimous decision.
Weidman vs. Belfort was then rescheduled for UFC 181 in December, but the champ had to bow out due to a broken hand. That forced the UFC to reschedule the bout for UFC 184 on Feb. 28. Weidman has had to back out of that date as well, due to a rib injury he recently suffered during training.
UFC president Dana White this past weekend indicated that Belfort had a strong desire to remain on the UFC 184 fight card, but that they just can’t seem to come together on a fight that Belfort will agree to.
“Vitor Belfort and his wife are blowing me up, asking for an interim title fight,” White recounted on the UFC 183 Postfight Show on FOX Sports 1 on Saturday night.
“I pulled together this fight. I called Lyoto Machida; Lyoto Machida said, ‘send me the bout agreement.’ Called Vitor back; he didn’t think that was a great idea. So he’s gonna wait.”
White later said that they had another fight in the offing to Belfort, which appears to have been an interim title fight with Gegard Mousasi. But Belfort shot that down as well.
“I was planning on going on holiday, but the UFC called me and asked me ‘would you like to fight Vitor Belfort?’” Mousasi told FOX Sports on Monday.
“I said yes, but it wasn’t like I challenged him. The UFC asked me to fight and I said okay I’m going to take the fight. Machida was first and I was plan B, but Vitor said no to both.”
So why wouldn’t Belfort take either of those fights?
First of all, he doesn’t want to fight for an interim belt, despite what White relayed that he and his wife requested.
“My focus was always the middleweight belt and I climbed the ladder to achieve my position,” Belfort wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday. “This is why I won’t fight for an interim.”
Secondly, he apparently wants time to prepare for his specific opponent, and four weeks wasn’t enough time for him to shift gears to someone like Machida or Mousasi after having focused specifically on Weidman for the past year.
“If UFC gives 8 weeks and the middleweight Belt available for dispute I fight with anyone from the ranking. Not for an Interin, But the Middleweight Belt!” he continued.
Belfort may get a crack at Weidman with an eight-week lead-up, if he’s willing to wait. On Monday’s MMA Hour, Weidman said he should be good to go in six to eight weeks.
But the odds that the UFC would strip Weidman of the belt after having defended his belt seven months ago and with a short window to recovery are slim to none. And for Belfort to get a shot at the full-blown title when fighting anyone else, that is what would have to happen.
So don’t hold your breath if you were hoping that there might be a last-minute deal to keep Belfort on the UFC 184 fight card. Blame him or defend him, he doesn’t seem to want to make that happen.
More likely, we’ll see Weidman vs. Belfort sometime this spring, perhaps in May.