September 20, 2009

by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
With his blistering knockout of Rich Franklin Saturday at UFC 103, Vitor Belfort may have leapfrogged past two of the middleweight division’s top contenders.

At the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White said Belfort was more of an asset in the middleweight class, where he fought two times prior to his 195-pound catch weight meeting with Franklin, than at light heavyweight, where he once won the title in 2004.

“To be honest with you, the way that the last two fights happened with Marquardt and Henderson against Anderson Silva, I think it would be better to see them fight each other and the winner of that be the next contender, and I think Vitor is ready,” said White. “I think Vitor is ready to fight Anderson Silva.”

The opponent gridlock for middleweight champ Anderson Silva wasn’t a problem, said White.

“You’re in this place in the 185-pound division where you have a guy that’s so dominant, anytime you can come up with new and exciting fights for him, it’s great,” he said. “And actually I love where we’re at. I love the fact that we’ve got Vitor in that weight class, and I really like the idea of (Nate) Marquardt and (Dan) Henderson fighting.”

Henderson and Marquardt, who both fell short to Silva in respective title bids, were believed to be in line for a second shot, while Silva’s camp lobbied to have the two face each other in a final eliminator bout. According to several reports, the UFC agreed with that strategy and tried to make Henderson/Marquardt happen for UFC 105, but contract negotiations with Dan Henderson stalled the fight.

“I think Henderson’s fight with him, he laid there and covered his mouth for a whole round and Anderson came out and finished it at the beginning of the second round,” White continued. “(Silva) finished Nate Marquardt in the first round. I think having them fight makes sense.”

As expected, White declined to make any concrete announcements about his next matchmaking move. Silva is expected to undergo elbow surgery and will be out of action for an unknown period.

Belfort, however, has caught White’s attention.

“I think Vitor might be ready now,” he said.