Resurgent UFC middleweight and former champion of two divisions, Vitor Belfort is still in the headlines 18 years after starting his illustrious career. More recently though, ‘The Phenom’ has been the news for far more controversial reasons. The media storm surrounding Belfort has focused on failed drug tests and re-scheduled fights.
Now, finally licensed and booked to face Chris Weidman for a title fight at UFC 181, Belfort will get the chance to silence his critics. This time around, TRT will not be present in Belfort’s system, causing fans and fighters alike to doubt his ability to repeat performances like those we saw in 2013. Knockouts of Dan Henderson, Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold were spectacular, but also kicked up a whirlwind of questions.
Speaking with The MMA Hour today, Belfort addressed the issue of TRT:
“I didn’t have any illegal substance in my body. Nothing was wrong. Everyone knew I was on TRT. I took a test, I could have denied it, I went, straight on. I was cleared; it’s hard to know these action, I was on TRT, everybody knew it. I’m ready to take what is mine, and I’m excited. December 6!! I am looking to the future. I’m a public figure, but you have your personal stuff. I was just quiet, dealing with my things, and just getting off it was a process. I wasn’t on steroids, it was TRT, it was a legal substance. I was clear, open and truthful. No more TRT now, it’s TNT.”
Former UFC competitor and FOX analyst Chael Sonnen was also caught up in the storm of TRT, but more specifically with the drugs he took to deal with the symptoms of TRT withdrawal. Belfort, however, feels that clean living and hard training is all that was needed for him:
“It’s just you got to take it like a man, deal with it. I’m living in a regiment, sleep early, wake up early, eating right. It’s my mind, my mind is so strong right now. Science says we don’t even use 5% of our mind, so I’m trying to live right, to make that sacrifice. I want to sacrifice my body, when you (Ariel) were 14, I was becoming the youngest UFC champion. Then in 2004 I became light-heavyweight champion. I’m so glad that I’m still here. I have a work ethic that got me here, and kept me here. You can’t party and fight, drink and fight. You have to sacrifice yourself. Either you worship the devil or worship god.”
Sonnen was not as fortunate as Belfort was at the recent NSAC hearing, as ‘The Phenom’ was licensed to fight Weidman in December, and Chael P was hit with a two year ban from fighting. As well as losing his FOX job, it seems that Sonnen bore quite the brunt from the commission. Belfort continues, saying he feels the NSAC were too soft on Sonnen:
“Chael Sonnen lied to the commission, he had four illegal substances in his body. I had zero, no illegal substances. They tested me so much in that period, and the UFC was testing me by blood. Blood doesn’t lie, TRT was legal, but Sonnen got caught with EPO, I didn’t have four illegal substances. They asked him, and he lied. I think they were light on him, I mean, no fine, a two year ban? I was open, doing the testing, but now that is the past, it’s finished. I passed everything. They tested me already for the Weidman fight”
Belfort has certainly taken a lot of bad press in the past year, and it doesn’t stop with the media. Former Stikeforce champion, and UFC middleweight Luke Rockhold has made a habit of slating Belfort at every turn. He recently described ‘The Phenom’ as ‘frail and fragile’. Belfort continues with his opinion on this:
“I think they are afraid, I understand. Rockhold is still in shock from that kick, it was a devastating knockout. I’m a lion, I don’t apologize for anybody. I’m an animal. I’m strong. TRT doesn’t give you a spinning head kick. When you get knocked out, go back in the gym and work, don’t talk. All these boys were in school when I started fighting. They want to use me as a ladder, but that ladder is too high, and they fall because will overcomes skill. They want to criticize me, and be in the news. Fame is something very dangerous, it can get to you when you think ‘Oh I’m the champ, I’m the man’. Every day I try to be truthful with myself. ”
With the whole TRT ban and controversy behind him, Belfort’s focus is certainly honed on the upcoming title fight against ‘The All-American’. A win for Belfort would silence a lot of doubters, and break records in the process. ‘The Phenom’ closes by giving a statement on the middleweight champion:
“I respect Weidman, but I’m winning that night (at UFC 181). I’m confident in my skills, I’m focused, and I’m fighting in another dimension. I’m always improving, I’m going to beat him everywhere. It’s not the better man who wins, it’s who plays better. It’s not pride, it’s a work ethic. I’m fighting in another dimension. I will win.”
Do you feel that Belfort’s focus and belief will carry him to his third title in the UFC, or will youth and skill win the day at UFC 181? One thing is for sure, Belfort still has quite the physique, as was seen when he flashed his biceps at Ariel Helwani.