Vitor Belfort will take perhaps his final swing at title contention when he meets Ronaldo Souza in the UFC 198 co-main event on Saturday at Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil. Vinicio Antony, Belfort’s longtime karate trainer, believes “The Phenom” still has what it takes to excel at the upper reaches of the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight division.
Antony spent a month in Florida working with Belfort ahead of his battle with “Jacare.”
“I’ve worked with Belfort since he was 16,” he told Sherdog.com. “I helped on his training camps for Rich Franklin, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson, and I can tell you that this camp was one of his best ever. Besides working on his striking skills with me, he had the help of many others, like muay Thai world champion Cosmo Alexandre, former Brazilian boxing champion Kelson Pinto, American wrestling legend Kenny Monday and Brazilian world absolute champion Amaury Bitetti. Each one of them added a lot to Belfort’s game. I can say he’s extremely focused and motivated, and all his weapons are pretty sharp.”
Antony, a 12-time Shotokan karate national champion, conceded that Souza will enter the cage as the favorite but scoffed at the idea that Belfort’s only chance to win will be early in the fight.
“Many people say Belfort is a first-round fighter. What I can say about that is that many fighters planned to take him to the second round, but few were able to do so,” he said. “Actually, [Bisping] was the last one to do it, and he got knocked out in the second round. The fact is that when Belfort is well-trained and has no problems in camp, he’s almost unbeatable in the middleweight division.”
While Antony respects Souza’s world-class grappling skills, he believes Belfort’s striking will be the deciding factor.
“Vitor is one of the few fighters in that division who needs just one punch to decide a fight,” he said. “He has a rifle on his hand. My job was basically to sharpen the gun to hit the target with one single bullet. We respect Ronaldo a lot, but the rifle is already sharp, motivated and on course for a title shot.”