November 10, 2015

T-Minus: Vitor Belfort's Legacy Remains In Question As We Approach the Final Countdown of His Career

By Raphael Garcia

UFC Fight Night 77 in Sao Paulo, Brazil was a spectacle for a number of different reasons. Men and women stepping into a cage to fight nearly always causes a stir, but one man in particular creates a certain level of intrigue anytime he’s in the cage. That man is Vitor Belfort. At the end of the night, he logged his 25th career win in 20 years of professional fighting. Yet when his career is all done, many will still wonder how to define Belfort’s legacy.

Vitor Belfort is a lot of things. He’s a former UFC champion. He’s a controversial figure due to failed drug tests. He’s a walking sound bite, known for making eyebrow-raising statements during press conferences. He’s also known for his striking abilities that have earned a UFC record of 12 knockouts during the course of his Octagon career. When he finally hangs up the gloves, which of these descriptors will be the one that comes first when talking about the man known as “The Phenom?” That depends upon who is asked.

It seems that North American fans will always remember Belfort for his misdeeds first, and highlights second. Every time he prepares to enter the cage, the line of questioning from MMA media consistently focuses on his past experiences with performance-enhancing drugs, as they rightfully should. Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting was recently forced to cancel an interview with Belfort after his wife demanded that her husband only face questions pertaining to his upcoming fight with Dan Henderson. Helwani stood his ground and decided to pull the plug on the interview.

With fighters such as Luke Rockhold, Michael Bisping, and Tim Kennedy all taking shots at Belfort by name or in general, it’s easy to understand why so many people have a sore spot for him. In a sport where his job is to physically maim his opponents, his “offenses” are worth the punishment, as long as everyone is held to that same standard. Many feel that Belfort doesn’t deserve the right to still be competing today, let alone be considered for the best of all-time.

If you were to ask that question in Brazil, the response would be completely different. Belfort still gets showered with praise every time he steps foot into an arena in his home country. The appreciation that he receives has to factor into the equation. This is one of the few locales where he is cheered for performances like the one he put on this past Saturday night. Do the Brazilian fans ignore his transgressions? Not entirely, but they take the “he’s just human and makes mistakes” route, as opposed to questioning his every move and phrase, as some would like.

Vitor Belfort will one day walk away from the sport, and at 38 years of age, some wonder how he is still going at such an impressive clip. The debate around whether he deserves to be considered one of the best in the sport will go on for a long time, with some falling on the side that he doesn’t, and others choosing to support the Brazilian. It’s possible that his next few contests will determine his long term legacy in the sport.


UFC Fight Night 77: Belfort vs. Henderson 3 took place on November 7, 2015 at Auditório Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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