Few could deny that Vitor Belfort has been on a roll of late.
“The Phenom” has won four of his last five fights since coming up short in his bid to capture the UFC middleweight title from Anderson Silva, with only a short-notice defeat to reigning light heavyweight champion and pound-for-pound standout Jon Jones marring his record in that span.
On Saturday night, Belfort notched another of his trademark knockouts, finishing former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold in the UFC on FX 8 main event at Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil. The victory was not brought about by Belfort’s famous left hand, however, as the Brazilian instead clipped Rockhold with a gorgeous spinning heel kick that planted the American on the canvas. What followed was vintage Belfort, with the former light heavyweight champion battering Rockhold into unconsciousness with ground-and-pound midway through the opening frame.
Belfort, who made his professional debut in 1996 as a heavyweight, was once regarded by many as MMA’s poster child for squandered potential. However, that has changed with the 36-year-old’s resurgent success since dropping to 185 pounds nearly five years ago.
“I was part of two jungles. I’m the T-Rex, surviving in this new jungle, so I’m rebuilding myself, and God has given me the strength. Just as I used to be strong then, I am strong now,” Belfort told Fox Sports following his victory over Rockhold. “I think it was just this burning inside of me that said, ‘You didn’t accomplish what you [could have].’ I lacked so many things in my career. I [made] so many mistakes. “Dana [White] and Lorenzo [Fertitta] gave me the chance. I sat down with them, and I promised to give my best. I said I would finish as strong as I can. And I made a promise to my family and my spiritual father that I was going to finish strong,” Belfort continued. “If I don’t have the desire to go to the gym -- the desire to improve and [gain] new skills, then I should retire. I still have a lot of gas left in my tank. I thank God for giving me the strength.”
Belfort, who declined to call out an opponent following his spectacular knockout, attributes much of this year’s success to his camp, the Florida-based Blackzilians.
“I got [boxing coach] Pedro Diaz and [wrestling coach] Kenny Monday and [striking coach] Henri Hooft in my corner. I have the best team -- the Blackzilians,” said Belfort. “I have the best setup. They put me through training like a science. I was doing seven rounds of seven minutes with four different guys. We really have the best of the best in every area. The Blackzilians have a setup now like I never had in my life, and we have many great fighters, as well.”