All Quiet on the Belfort Front

By Loretta Hunt and Terry Goodlad Jul 23, 2009
I pulled into the Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts parking lot around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday and the first thing I noticed was a taxi parked outside the entrance. I squinted to see which fighter was about to jump out –- maybe an out-of-towner that had overslept and missed his ride. Instead, two tourists piled out with cameras in hand and looks of anticipation on their faces.

I was quickly reminded that Randy Couture’s gym is unlike any other. Fans will pay the $15 taxi ride from the Strip into town’s less-frequented industrial section for a glimpse of the UFC legend and his star-studded squad grinding through their training sessions.

Wednesday, as on most days, the cost of admission was well worth it. By my count, there were no less than 11 fighters in action who have fights within the next month, including (in no particular order) Jay Hieron, Vitor Belfort, Johny Hendricks, Gray Maynard, Mike Pyle, Tyson Griffin, Couture, Gabriel Gonzaga, Mark Hominick Chris Horodecki, Justin McCully and Erin Toughill (I know I am forgetting people too, so please don’t read this and be perturbed, unheralded fighter.)

Gina Carano was off-site all day shooting build-up footage for Showtime’s Aug. 15 presentation of her Strikeforce championship bout against Christiane Santos (More on that to come).

The man of the hour, though, is Belfort. As we reported on Tuesday night, the Brazilian middleweight had agreed to straddle two weight classes to meet the world’s number-one heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko, at Affliction “Trilogy” on Aug. 1, replacing Josh Barnett after his pre-test results allegedly came back positive for steroids.

Our report hasn’t changed. We still believe Belfort is Affliction’s man in what has become a 24-hour whirlwind of surprises for the sport. We also believe that Belfort’s management and the promotion have reached amicable purse terms, and all that’s left is a signing of the contract.

Belfort was upbeat and, dare I say, excited as he entered the facility. A round of congratulatory handshakes and the Brazilian’s beaming smile told me this decision has been firmly made.

Belfort then went to work, drilling combinations in the ring before retiring to the mat with Gonzaga for over an hour.

When I asked for an interview later, Belfort politely requested I come back Thursday, as he did with every other reporter that wandered into the gym throughout the night. It appears the Xtreme Couture team has put themselves under a gag order, awaiting an official announcement from Affliction.

Fair enough. I’ll be back later.
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