Vitor Belfort: Looking Back at the Brazilian’s Storied Career

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Lyoto Machida, UFC 224, Vitor Belfort
Credit: Gleidson Venga/Sherdog.com

With Vitor Belfort’s MMA career coming to an end at UFC 224, we look back at the finest moments of the middleweight’s career.

Vitor Belfort’s career ended after he got cracked by Lyoto Machida at UFC 224 last weekend in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – his UFC run ended with Belfort on his back, and his shield on the floor.

A similar kick from Machida at UFC 129 also ended Randy Couture’s run in the UFC and earned ‘The Dragon’ the Sherdog 2011 Knockout of the Year.

Now that Vitor Belfort’s officially left his gloves inside the Octagon and, we hope for his sake, stepped inside the cage as a competitor for the final time, how will we remember ‘The Phenom?’

Will Vitor be remembered as a legend, a champion, a knockout artist, a hero, or a cheat? One thing is for sure – he never quit. Even stripped of his Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), he pushed through and fought until the end. He even entered his fight with Lyoto Machida sporting a significant knee injury.

With the intention to be as honest as I can be with my fans and specially with my opponent, I will go straight to the point. The injured that happened with me during the training camp somehow made the news. My team nor I had mentioned before, during or after the fight. Winning or losing, fighting injured or not; it is part of an athlete’s life. I’m not the first one nor will be the last one athlete to fight injured. Even though all the limitations imposed to me because of the injured I suffered. It is my decision to step into the octagon or not. And I decided to do it! I did not want to miss the chance to have my last fight at the UFC; in my country, my hometown and with a such respected opponent. I gave my best on the fight and my opponent was the better man that night. And this is what counts! Nothing that happened with me during the training camp takes anything away from his victory. Of course wasn’t the outcome I wished for. Not because of the defeat, because we can’t control the outcome. What bothers me is knowing that I performed bellow of what I know that I can. I literally grew up in the cage, I was wrought to be a fighter, to leave it all in the cage… and this teachings I brought to all the aspects of my life. Dedicated every minute, every second doing the best you can in whatever you’re committed to. To the ones genuinely concerned with me, I will tell you this: I feel like an injured Lion. To the haters and envious, I will tell you this: I might be injured, BUT I’M STILL A LION! See you all very soon…

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Vitor Belfort is all of the things mentioned above  and people will surely flip-flop back and forth between the positives and negatives depending on the topic of conversation but here are FIVE things that made Vitor ‘The Phenom’ Belfort’s career stand out:

1. TRT Vitor’s 2013 Knockouts of Dan Henderson, Luke Rockhold, and Michael Bisping

Vitor Belfort on testosterone was a treat to watch. Vitor was frightening.

At UFC on FX 7 (that’s not a typo, it was on FX!) Vitor began his 2013 by permanently disfiguring Michael Bisping with a head kick and a mad barrage of punches to the downed ‘Count.’

Bisping later underwent a myriad of surgeries for a detached retina – but he never recovered. Still to this day he has problems with his eye.

“We all know the dangers of this sport. I mean, we’re trying to knock each other out. I’ve been left permanently disfigured, if you will, from my fight with Vitor Belfort. Vitor Belfort head kicked me and that’s what caused my detached retina. Since then, I’ve had five surgeries, and my eye is never going to look the same again,” Bisping said on the Three Amigos podcast #24.

Steroids didn’t help Barry Bonds hurt anybody – but steroids/TRT no doubt played a part in Vitor Belfort injuring Bisping; Testosterone replacement therapy prolonged Vitor Belfort’s prime fighting years to a significant degree.

Belfort went on to deliver a Knockout of the Year performance that spoiled former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold’s UFC debut in May at UFC on FX 8.

Testosterone had nothing to do with that flawless spinning heel kick technique.

Belfort would finish 2013 with another scalp on his resume – Dan Henderson’s old mug.

Vitor had previously lost to Henderson at PRIDE 32: The Real Deal by unanimous decision, but in their second encounter at UFC Fight Night 32 nothing was going to stop Belfort from getting a knockout.

May 18, 2013, was the last time Vitor Belfort was allowed to compete while receiving a TRT exemption, as testosterone was banned by the NSAC and other governing bodies followed suit in February 2014.

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2. Vitor Belfort Nearly Finishes Jon Jones via Armbar at UFC 152

Joe Rogan almost talked it into existence – almost.

Vitor Belfort earned a shot at the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 152 after Lyoto Machida turned down his own title shot due to lack of training time.

Early on in the first round, Belfort found himself on his back and it looked like he might be in trouble – as Jones wasn’t fatigued yet and it looked like he was getting in position to land some serious ground and pound.

“Now one thing we’ve never seen from Vitor Belfort is submissions from his back, he can defend himself – I’m sure he has submissions… OH! ARMBAR! He’s got it! HE HAS GOT IT! He might break that arm Mike!” Joe Rogan said at the announcing table as Vitor Belfort nearly pulled off the impossible.

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Cageside Press reader Trevor Bender wrote:

“He (Vitor) was tough as nails. My mom bought the PPV for my birthday and we stayed in and watched it together. First fight I had to look away from because I didn’t think he was gonna tap when Belfort had his arm/shoulder.”

Jon Jones would go on to win the fight via submission in the fourth round after he caught Vitor in an Americana – but Jones’ arm was never the same, as he suffered a strained ligament in his right elbow.

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3. Vitor Blitzes Wanderlei Silva at UFC Brazil

In 1998, we had young stud Vitor, who was about as clean as Jose Conseco in his heyday – and he was arguably scarier than the TRT Vitor we had in 2013.

At UFC Brazil in his light heavyweight debut, Belfort would meet Wanderlei Silva.

‘The Axe Murder’ hadn’t come into his own and wasn’t yet the Pride legend that would instill fear in everybody – even the heavyweights. In a way though, the thought of a fresh Wanderlei Silva that hadn’t taken a career’s worth of damage is a scary thought and ‘stud’ Belfort was able to defeat him in just 44 seconds.

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4. UFC Light Heavyweight Championship Victory vs. Randy Couture at UFC 46

In their first encounter back in 1997 at UFC 15, Randy Couture knocked out Belfort in 8:16 of the first round in a match to determine who would compete for the UFC Championship next.

Belfort would get his revenge when he defeated Couture via Doctor’s stoppage after ‘The Natural’ suffered cut near his eye just 49 seconds into the fight.

The full fight video is available here.

This fight though is more notable because of what Vitor went through in the lead-up to his first Championship win.

On January 9, 2004, Vitor’s sister, Priscila Belfort, disappeared without a trace. It wasn’t until years later that a woman named Elaine Paiva confessed to her kidnapping and killing – but Belfort’s family has never accepted this version of events, still to this day, even though arrests have been made in connection to her case.

Exactly 43 years ago a princess was born. Her name was already pronounced sweet. PRISCILA VIEIRA BELFORT was born. Pri, wherever you are I really want this message to come to you. I hope in God’s Eternity of all creation. You can have access to LOVE messages. In fact, our father had already said that love is greater than everything. And it is with this love that I come to congratulate you on your birthday. I promise that somehow I will celebrate this day as if you were by my side. Pri, my kids always ask you! They want to know every detail of your life. @davibelfort @vitoriabelfortoficial and @kyarabelfort it is logical that you could not forget your great friend @joanapradob who turned out to be your confidant … rsrs Well … we love you very, very much. And Pri just spoke to Mom and she promised that on this big day she will celebrate her birthday without staying at home. She told me she’s going out and walking with a friend … Daddy you know what it’s like? LOL It’s still the same … That day especially we all wanted to be able to hug you and kiss you. I forgot to say; Dad returned to live in BH with our family. He is being very well taken care of there. All cousins ​​and aunts love you very much and say that they miss you a lot. All our cousins ​​have already become parents with beautiful children! You can not imagine every beautiful nephew we have !! Well I write this letter directly from Montreal in Canada, on January 14th I will do my last fight on @ufc. Pri, they have been fighting for 21 years and I confess that I can not wait to follow up on my second journey. In which all who participate will be winners. I and @joanapradob created @belfortfitnesslifestyle a new model of gyms and next year we started opening for franchises. We are very happy with the result. We have a huge list of interested people and our students have become a great family. I’m sure you would love our students, each with a wonderful story. Pri, right now I had to wipe away many tears from my face when I wrote this letter but I know that every tear is translated by God. Because only He understands that language. I Love you, my sister.

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Being able to compete under those circumstances is certainly heroic.

Belfort’s title reign would be short-lived as Randy Couture would win the rubber match later that year to reclaim the Light Heavyweight Championship.

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5. Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson III

Vitor Belfort is best known for his knockout power – but how would he fare after the use of TRT was no longer allowed? How would ‘Dad Bod’ Vitor Belfort fare against elite competition in the Octagon? Would he even be able to play the role of gatekeeper in his depleted state?

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A TKO loss to UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman in May 2015 seemed to indicate that Belfort could no longer compete with the best of the best – but what about Dan Henderson, could he still beat Dan? The two had split a pair of fights and the rubber match was set for UFC Fight Night 77 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Belfort once again finished Henderson with kicks and punches for the TKO victory.

Even though ‘Dad bod’ Vitor would go on to be knocked out four times in his next five appearances, ultimately resulting in his retirement at UFC 224 last week – he got one last highlight against Dan Henderson in 2015.

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