The Belfort-Tyson Connection

By Marcelo Alonso Dec 25, 2010
Vitor Belfort (left) and Mike Tyson: M. Alonso |

Vitor Belfort finds inspiration outside of mixed martial arts, even has he prepares to meet Anderson Silva for the middleweight title at UFC 126 on Feb. 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has had a heavy influence on “The Phenom.”

“I was at his house and met his family,” Belfort told Radio Portal do Vale Tudo in Brazil. “I met his daught and wife, who is pregnant. It’s always nice to be in touch with people like him.”

Tyson, now 44, made history in 1986, when he won the WBC heavyweight championship at the age of 20, defeating the late Trevor Berbick by second-round technical knockout. He won his first 37 professional fights.

“Mike Tyson is a big idol, and he crossed the boundaries of sport,” Belfort said. “He was a great inspiration to many athletes and in my career since I was a child. We have much in common and had fame too soon. We always have good conversations.”

Belfort, who was 19 years old when he debuted in the UFC in 1997, believes Tyson’s expertise should be valued more and even invited the Brooklyn, N.Y., native to join his camp.

“I told him that he’s used badly, because he has great views of fighting,” Belfort said. “He knows a lot of martial arts, but they aren’t given the proper value. He said he wanted to be part of my camp, and it was a pleasure to be part of my training. I told him to come in and give me some tips. He’s an important person in the sport and was a great motivator for many successful fighters. I think it’s important to have a recovery.”

Belfort will carry a five-fight winning streak into his match with Silva. He praised the longtime champion and vowed to put forth his best effort when they meet. Should Belfort unseat Silva, he would become only the third man in history -- Randy Couture and B.J. Penn are the others -- to hold UFC championships in two different weight classes. The 33-year-old won the light heavyweight crown at UFC 46 in January 2004. Belfort remains committed on diversifying his training.

“It’s hard to expect anything from Anderson because he’s very thorough,” he said. “I’m seeking the fullness of everything, but I focused on jiu-jitsu and boxing; that’s my lethal weapon. I will also training karate, with Jayme Sandall coming in. I’m training muay Thai to practice the combination of blows. I’ll try to use wisdom, and if people think I only have a chance to win in the first round, I’ll show them they were wrong. I focus on things that need improving, and I’m working hard on that.”

Belfort also addressed the infamous face-to-face staredown between himself and Silva prior to UFC 112 in the United Arab Emirates. The two Brazilians were originally scheduled to meet there, but Belfort was forced to withdraw due to injury. He believes Silva has received the challenge in the wrong spirit.

“I think Anderson has the attitude of taking it personally,” Belfort said. “Afterward, I went to try to talk to him, and he said he wouldn’t talk to me. I think he was upset that I wanted to fight him, because he thought it was personal. It’s not personal; it’s a job. I thank God I was a guy who broke barriers and showed that people can grow. Some people who once criticized me now see me differently.”

Silva has won 13 consecutive fights since his disqualification loss to Yushin Okami in January 2006. He has held the UFC’s middleweight championship for more than four years.

“There’s a lot of pride involved, and people think I’m afraid,” Belfort said. “Afraid of what? Why would I be afraid of a man? If I have to win, I’ll win, and if I have to lose, I’ll lose. I don’t have reasons to be afraid.”

To that end, Belfort plans to resolve his differences with Silva in the ring. He wants to leave the pre-fight rhetoric to others.

“I was never a guy that wants to brag,” he said. “I taste things with my attitudes. There are people who say they will knock you out but end up with their butts on the floor. We’ve seen it enough. I’d rather be a normal person, and I understand the sport otherwise. I don’t need to do an evil face for people to think I’m a good fighter.

“I have to do my job. My job is to fight, and I try to do my best,” Belfort added. “There are many people who talk but don’t remember to do what they said they were going to do when the time comes. I’ve never been a talker. I’m more about doing.”
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