March 14, 2017

UFC Fight Night 106: No Longer Believing in the "Phenom" Vitor Belfort

By Raphael Garcia

Because mixed martial arts is a violent sport that deals damage both in the cage and in the practice room, it’s hard to tell a fighter when his or her time is up. However, people usually chime in with their opinions when a fighter is 39 years of age and losing in dramatic fashion like Vitor Belfort. The former champion mentioned in his post-fight comments that he has one fight remaining on his UFC contract and he’d like to end it with a battle in Brazil. If that happens, one wonders how fans will remember “The Phenom.”

When talking about Belfort’s accolades in the cage, there’s a lot of focus on. However, the current story isn’t that great. At UFC Fight Night 106, Belfort suffered his third straight TKO stoppage, this time at the hands of Kelvin Gastelum. In fact, every defeat he’s suffered since rejoining the UFC in 2009 has come at the end of some sort of stoppage. And since being defeated by Chris Weidman at UFC 187, the violence behind each has escalated.

However, this recent string of defeats is not the whole story when it comes to Belfort. He’s one of the most prominent Brazilian stars to ever step into the Octagon. He’s defeated the likes of Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, Anthony Johnson, Rich Franklin, and Wanderlei Silva. But with every win in his career, there hangs the uncomfortable discussion around pre- and post-TRT Belfort, as well as PEDs more generally. PRIDE 32 in 2006 was the first tainted outcome in Belfort’s career, but wouldn’t be the last. And after pulling himself out of UFC 173 in 2014 due to the NSAC moving away from TUE exemptions (this after failing a random drug test in February of that year), Belfort set himself up for much of the attacks he faces today.

Fighters such as Weidman, Bisping, and Rockhold continue to attack Belfort for his past failed tests as if he’s the face of performance enhancing drugs in mixed martial arts. Belfort has become this sport’s version of Barry Bonds. Just as many believed Bonds was a great player before the accusations of PED use, but it’s the period during and after the “steroid era” in baseball that will potentially keep him out of the MLB Hall of Fame, Belfort falls into a similar category. After the UFC moved towards more stringent testing policies, Belfort’s performances immediately tapered off to the point that we see today. For some, that’s enough of a reason to ignore the success that Belfort’s achieved throughout his career. However, he’s pulled off enough to deserve recognition in 20-plus years of MMA service.

Vitor Belfort is one of the most controversial men on the UFC roster today. His name elicits a mix of reactions from fans and peers alike. If he’s set to fight out his UFC contract -- and perhaps his career -- at an event later this year, it will be hard to recognize his success without mentioning the struggles he’s had with performance-enhancing drugs. Belfort is going to go down as a competitor that brought the action, whether he was finishing or getting finished. But the conversation surrounding his career is going to involve much more than that when it’s all said and done.

UFC Fight Night 106: Belfort vs. Gastelum (formerly UFC Fight Night 107: Belfort vs. Gastelum) took place March 11, 2017 at Centro de Formacao Olimpica do Nordeste in Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil.

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