Another former UFC champion is heading to Asia, having signed with rising promotion ONE Championship.
Vitor Belfort is one of MMA’s longest tenured fighters, having fought all the way from 1996 to 2018. Vitor first put on the gloves for the UFC at UFC 12 and finally stopped fighting and announced retirement following his loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC 224. Along the way he earned a Heavyweight tournament championship, a UFC light-heavyweight championship, and became one of the octagon’s most accomplished fighters. However despite setting down the gloves at UFC 224, he is apparently returning, in ONE Championship.
Chatri Sityodtong, ONE Championship Chairman and CEO made the announcement Thursday. Belfort will be making his return to fighting later this year within the ONE cage. While there is no official date or opponent set for his return, it seems likely that Belfort will fight at 205 pounds given ONE’s weight cutting rules. However middleweight and heavyweight also appear to be a possibility.
BREAKING NEWS: I am thrilled to announce that UFC Legend Vitor Belfort is now a ONE Championship athlete! A former UFC Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight World Champion, Vitor holds the record for the most KOs in UFC history as well as the 2nd most finishes. #WeAreONE pic.twitter.com/Sbf15KPPua
— Chatri Sityodtong (@yodchatri) March 1, 2019
This signing is perfectly in line with ONE’s recent moves. ONE Championship over the past few months has made a big push towards former UFC talent. Along the way they’ve signed former UFC champions Demetrious Johnson, Eddie Alvarez and Meisha Tate, the latter albeit in a non-fighting position. They’ve also signed notable names such as Sage Northcutt and Yushin Okami. They even were able to lure Yoshihiro Akiyama out of retirement.
ONE also have had the likes of Renzo Gracie, Tim Sylvia, Phil Baroni and Jens Pulver all walk through their cage doors. Brandon Vera is likely the most successful UFC-ONE transition however, as he has captured the promotion’s heavyweight title and has defended it twice.
Johnson and Alvarez already have their debuts set for March 31 at ONE Championship: A New Era as part of their ongoing flyweight and lightweight tournaments. With the signing of Belfort and others, could more tournaments be on the way? We will soon find out.