Sixteen years after making his professional debut, Belfort is ready to challenge Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title next Saturday night in Toronto, Canada. Belfort was scheduled to fight Alan Belcher in the co-main event of UFC 153 in October, but was removed from the card and pitted against Jones after a series of circumstances led to the champion in need of a fight.
“I was training two weeks in my camp (for UFC 153) and then when I see the (UFC 151) cancellation and I see a lot of buzz on Twitter,” Belfort said during the UFC 152 pre-fight media conference call on Sept. 11. “You know guys disrespect each other, you know, everyone sells the fight whatever way they want, so when I see that, I felt sorry for the fans and I text Lorenzo and Dana at the same time and say ‘Guys, if you need someone’.”
The UFC did need someone. After Dan Henderson pulled out of UFC 151 due to injury and Jones was left without an opponent, the UFC canceled the event. Jones was shifted to UFC 152 where he was supposed to fight Lyoto Machida. However, Machida turned the fight down, leaving Jones without and opponent once again. Although Belfort has competed at 185-pounds for the last five years, the 35-year-old made it known he wanted the fight with Jones and a few weeks later, here we are.
“I knew it had to make sense for Jon Jones to fight someone for a title fight,” explained Belfort. “I know his position he’s young, he’s the best guy in that weight division, the new breed, the new guys who are coming from this era, a different mentality, they come from a different era.”
Belfort believes he has a “different mentality” in the sense that he is willing to fight anyone, anytime, at any weight. The Brazilian is right; he’s been doing it his entire career. Belfort started his MMA journey as a muscled up heavyweight, eventually dropping to light heavyweight and most recently settling in at middleweight. At UFC 152 on Sept. 22, Belfort is set to return to 205-pounds to face a man who dwarfs him in physical stature.
The passion Belfort holds for fighting goes beyond money, fame and championship belts. He was fighting before any of those things were relevant in the world of MMA. At this point in his career, Belfort fights because he loves the sport he’s spent nearly half his life competing in. While he may be one of the few pioneers left who actively competes at the top level, the new guard starting to take over the sport does not intimidate Belfort. In fact, he enjoys his current position as the wily veteran.
“I have a different mentality then everybody else; I’m enjoying this journey. Now I fight not for the fame, not for the money, not for the position, I fight for pleasure,” Belfort said. “It’s a joy.”
“I’m enjoying the times that I had pressure in the past. That think you know, you cannot lose, you have to represent your team. Now, I’m just here man, I’m having fun. So for me, fighting Jon Jones, I never in my life had the ideas that I would be fighting at the high level that I’m still fighting. I used to fight on the same card as Dan Severn, Mark Coleman, you know? I got this era, I’m like a young dinosaur, so I’m an old lion in the midst of these young lions, so I’m enjoying this jungle.”
Whether he defeats Jones next Saturday night or not, Belfort is just happy he gets to test himself against one of the best fighters in the world. He was delighted to step up to the plate when the UFC needed him most and regardless of the result, is excited to take on the challenge that is the unstoppable Jon Jones.
“People turn down fights, I cannot understand. I cannot see that,” he said. “As an old school guy man I told them if you need me to go there, I really just will do it.”
“I love challenges. And this is another challenge in my life and I’m going to go for it and move forward.”
UFC 152 goes down Sept. 22 from the Air Canada Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The event also features a flyweight championship bout between Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson.