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He’s back! Vitor Belfort plans 2019 MMA return following brief retirement - ‘I still got fight left in me’

MMA: UFC 224- Belfort vs Machida Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Vitor Belfort announced he would be walking away from the fight game earlier this year following his knockout loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC 224. But “The Phenom” has now had a change of heart, as he says he intends to fight again come 2019.

“I am a free agent,” Belfort said on ESPN’s Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show (via ESPN). “We are in conversation [with promotions]. In 2019 I will come back.” At the age of 41, Vitor has competed in professional mixed martial arts (MMA) since the tender age of 19, making his UFC debut way back at UFC 12 in 1997.

A decade after that, Belfort told himself he’s only fight until the age of 40. Despite losing four of his last five — though his knockout loss to Kelvin Gastelum was overturned to a no-contest — Belfort intends to keep the dream going.

“I never plan [things], but I remember in 2007, I made a decision, ‘OK, I’m going to be fighting until I’m 40.’ Here I am, finishing this plan I made in 2007,” Belfort said. “You’ve got to respect your body and know the time to transition to what’s next. A lot of athletes cannot transition. They don’t have nothing to do after.”

After making his UFC return back in 2009, Belfort says he won’t necessarily sign with the Endeavor-owned promotion, saying he intends to test the free agent market.

”We are looking for a place where we can be a fighter and be the athlete and we can bring value,” he said. “I am very thankful with what UFC provide me and I saw how UFC was run by very smart businessmen. They gave me the opportunity to create my own platform.”

“I have so much things that I want accomplish and I think the sport needs a change.”

As for what the market looks like for Vitor, he does have plenty of options. Among them is obviously UFC, whom he’s competed for 26 times. There is always Bellator MMA, who has picked up several ex-UFC fighters looking for a different home and higher pay.

Among several other stateside promotions, Vitor can always head overseas and fight for RIZIN, as he still carries a big name in Japan thanks to his PRIDE FC days. Plus, ONE Championship has become a major player as of late, making big waves in the MMA scene.

There’s also this new player in the game.

Nevertheless, Belfort says he isn’t coming back for only pay, as he says he still feels he has plenty of fight left in him. And after taking care of some health issues during his time off — specifically a huge bone spur in his shoulder that he fought with in his last five fights — “The Phenom” says he’s primed and ready for another go.

Care to offer up any suggestions as to who he should face?

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