Vitor Belfort's alleged last Ultimate Fighting Championship is on the horizon but don't think that means “The Phenom” is ready to call it a career.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion will face Nate Marquardt in a middleweight bout on June 3 at UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Belfort has stated it will be his last bout for the company, which many have construed as retirement for the 40-year-old Brazilian, who made his pro MMA debut in October 1996 as a 19-year-old, blitzing UFC veteran Jon Hess in just 12 seconds. However, Belfort is now making it clear he's not ready to hang up the gloves quite yet.
Veja Rio, a Brazilian portal dedicated to news and culture in “The Marvelous City,” has published a short six-question interview with Belfort in which he details his future intentions.
“I will leave the UFC, but I will continue competing. Fighting is my passion,” said Belfort. “It's too bad MMA has not become a serious sport yet; maybe I'll help change that picture.”
Belfort, who has fought 24 times in the Octagon since debuting at UFC 12 in February 2007, once again brought up his desire for a “legends league” built around aged MMA legends, whether he would ever rematch Anderson Silva and “Belfort Fitness Lifestyle,” a forthcoming exercise regime he will promote. However, Belfort underscored what he sees as the major problem facing the MMA industry on the whole and especially the UFC product.
“Today, a fighter is more an artist than an athlete. The UFC itself is a show, not a sport,” said Belfort. “It's sad to see new fighters wanting to drive the car of the moment or take the spotlight like Conor McGregor. Their idea is to have, not to be.”
Belfort has won just once in the Octagon in his last five fights. Outside of his November 2015 knock out Dan Henderson, “The Phenom” has been stopped via strikes by Chris Weidman, “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza and Gegard Mousasi. On March 11, Belfort was knocked out by Kelvin Gastelum in the first round in Fortaleza, Brazil, but the bout was changed to a no contest following Gastelum testing positive for cannabinoid metabolites in a postfight drug test.