Photo of Vitor Belfort by Esther Lin for MMA Fighting
From competing in the dark years of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to the hollowed ring of PRIDE FC and back with the world renowned Octagon, Vitor Belfort has fought worldwide against a 'who's-who' of mixed martial arts (MMA) legends.
Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem, Tito Ortiz, Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, and Kazushi Sakuraba are just a few of the elite fighters "The Phenom" has competed against throughout his 17-year fighting career.
He's reached the pinnacle of the sport, claiming the UFC's light heavyweight title in 2004 and even won the promotion's heavyweight tournament in 1997. Though he came up short in claiming a word title in his third weight class, losing to middleweight titleholder Anderson Silva at UFC 126 in 2011, Vitor has an opportunity to claim another belt and prove that he is still capable of success at the highest level.
Standing in his way will be current 205-pound champion Jon Jones, who has made fighting look easy over the last couple of years, running through the UFC's light heavyweight division with relative ease. It wasn't a cakewalk, far from it, "Bones" just made it look that way.
When the two talented fighters meet at UFC 152 on Sept. 22 in Toronto, it will be a clash of two competitors who are both talented and skilled, but are from two entirely different eras.
Speaking at the UFC 152 conference call, Belfort reflects on his fighting career and says he is no longer fighting for money or fame, but for the simple joy of it.
Check out his comments, after the jump:
"For me, fighting Jon Jones, I never in my life had an idea that I'd fighting at a high level that I'm still fighting it. I used to fight on the same cards as Dan Severn, Mark Coleman. I'm from this era, so I'm like a young dinosaur. I'm an old lion in the midst of this young lion, so I'm enjoying the jungle. For me, I just want to thank God for still surfing that wave at a high level. It's a pleasure. It's a challenge. People turn down fights. I cannot understand that. I cannot see that. I love challenges, and this another challenge in my life and we go for it. We move forward."
Vitor declares he no longer fights with pressure and hopes to leave a legacy behind that inspires others:
"As an old-school guy, I say if you need me to go there, I'm willing to do it. I have a different mentality than anybody else. I'm enjoying this journey. Now I fight not for the money, not for the fame, not for the position. I fight for the pleasure. It's a joy. I'm enjoying the times I had pressure in the past. The thing like ''You can't lose, you have to represent your team.' Now, I'm just there having fun. I'm going to go there to compete, bro. I'm there to win, to compete at my high level of competition. That's it. I'm not thinking, 'Oh, my career, I have to do this.' No, I did everything. I'm very happy for what I did in the sport and now I'm just enjoying the moment, the process and the journey. I hope I can be an inspiration for other athletes, for guys coming up. And that's my legacy, man, just enjoying the journey. I'll go there and I don't have any pressure, Just joy. Be happy and smiling every moment of the fight. It doesn't matter what type of position I'm in. It doesn't matter what I go through. I went through the hardest things in life, in the professional life and on a personal level, so it's a joy. I've learned to be happy even if I'm sad, so it's going to be a great challenge for myself. I love challenges."
In many ways, one can compare Vitor's earlier career to that of Jones.
Belfort burst onto the MMA scene winning his first four fights with relative ease, displaying great power, speed and precise striking, clocking a total of 184 seconds, barely breaking a sweat.
Randy Couture proved that though Belfort was thought of as unbeatable, no one is untouchable and everyone meets their match, eventually. The Brazilian striker looks to do the same as he attempts to do what no one has been able to do to Jones, and that's put a true loss on his record.
Perhaps a pressure-free Vitor can be a dangerous opponent for anyone and in under two weeks, the MMA world will find out whether the "old lion" has what it takes to go into the "jungle" and take out the dangerous "young lion" on his way to the top of the sport, one more time.