Ninth-ranked middleweight Gegard Mousasi has been the main event or co-main event in eight of his nine UFC fights, but they’ve all been UFC Fight Night cards. On Saturday, he’ll be the co-main event of a UFC pay-per-view for the first time when he takes on fifth-ranked Vitor Belfort at UFC 204 in Manchester, England.
“It’s a big fight for me. It’s in Europe, so I feel like I’m fighting in my backyard,” the Dutch fighter told MMAWeekly.com.
Belfort’s a former light heavyweight champion who’s been fighting professionally since he was a teenager. Mousasi considers Belfort a legend in the sport and is eager to add such a big name to his resume.
“He’s a legend because of his past. He’s fought in Pride. He has a long history. He’s been fighting for so long. Vitor is one of the biggest (names), especially in the UFC. He’s one of the more well known names. It’s a big fight. He’s a big name,” said Mousasi. “Everyone knows Vitor Belfort. He’s been fighting for so long. He’s popular.”
Belfort’s known for his knockout power and hand speed. 18 of his 25 wins have been by knockout, but his last four knockout wins have come by way of kicks.
“Everyone knows that he’s an explosive striker. I think lately he hasn’t been working a lot on his ground especially for the Jacare Souza and Chris Weidman fights. You can see that. He’s been concentrating a lot on his striking and takedown defense. When his takedown defense doesn’t work, he’s in trouble. I think he’s adjusted that,” he said.
“I train a lot with southpaws, so I know I can handle his southpaw. He has heavy hands, but lately he’s been knocking a lot of people out with kicks. We’re focused on the stand-up. I’m more of a kickboxer, and he’s more of an explosive fighter. If it’s just stand-up, I’m not worried,” added the 31-year-old.
Mousasi is well aware that Belfort is a dangerous fighter, and oddly that adds to his confidence heading into Saturday’s fight.
“I’m very confident going into this fight. It’s a big fight and I need to perform. Knowing what’s at stake – a lot of times I wasn’t worried about my opponent, and that’s when I lost. Once I’m worried about my opponent and know that he’s dangerous, that’s when I’m my sharpest. I know I will have a good performance.”