When Vitor Belfort got the call from the UFC that he would be fighting in his native Brazil, he was obviously excited.
But the excitement soon turned to anticipation because Belfort then only wanted to know one thing. Who was he fighting?
The name Anthony Johnson came across the telephone, and without hesitation, like any other fight before, Belfort said yes. To some it may have been an odd choice because Johnson has spent his entire UFC career fighting at welterweight.
Belfort on the other hand trusted the UFC’s judgment and knew that if Johnson was their choice for the fight, then he’d prepare for him accordingly.
“I’m not a picky fighter like ‘oh no I don’t want this.’ I think of it like this, I’ve been in this sport for so long, I know so many managers, promoters, fighters, they have a way to do business. I do business like this… God is my manager, God is my everything. If somebody is trying to do something with me, that’s bad for me, I cannot stop it. I can control my intentions, to work for the UFC,” Belfort told MMAWeekly Radio recently.
“If they think this is a good fight to the UFC, then it’s a good fight for Vitor.”
As soon as Belfort got the news about who his opponent would be, he started training like any other fight camp. There was no lacking in his preparation simply because Johnson hadn’t ever competed at middleweight before.
Belfort learned long ago that you respect every opponent like they are the greatest champion to set foot in the cage, and if your training follows suit, you’ll do just fine in the fight.
When breaking down the fight, Belfort watched plenty of footage on Johnson and didn’t notice too many holes in his game. Well, maybe one hole that he could expose on Jan. 14 at UFC Rio.
“I don’t know if his jiu-jitsu is that great,” said Belfort. “I plan to take him down too, that will be one of the plans on the ground. He doesn’t have very solid jiu-jitsu, but he’s a pretty tough wrestler. He likes to kick, he likes to trade, so we’ll see. It’s going to be a great match-up.
“Let’s see how he’s going to act when the action begins.”
Regardless of how Belfort feels about Johnson’s jiu-jitsu skills, he still understands that the former welterweight is a dangerous opponent who comes into this fight with nothing to lose. He’s fighting at a new weight class, against a former champion in his home country, so Johnson just gets to relax and fight his fight.
Don’t think that Belfort is looking past Johnson however. He sees Johnson no different than Anderson Silva, Yoshihiro Akiyama, or Rich Franklin. A dangerous opponent who has to be respected in the Octagon.
“I don’t take things easy. I don’t underestimate anyone. He’s strong, he has skills, the best way to respect him, to show him respect, (is that) I’m focused,” said Belfort.
“He’s a lion, but I’m a lion, and when we get there I’m going to roar. I’m going to roar on that day. I respect him, but on that day the cage belongs to me so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to earn it.”