By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The 103rd edition of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) took place last Saturday, September 19, at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas. The event marked the comeback of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Brazilian fighter Vitor Belfort, former UFC champion who had been out of competition since 2005.
In 1997, nineteen-year-old Vitor Belfort was the new sensation in the MMA world. He received the nickname “The Phenom” when he won UFC 12 in the Heavyweight category and became renowned for his precocious skill and prowess.
Vitor was the youngest fighter ever to win a UFC title. In 2004, after fighting in the PRIDE Championships, Belfort came back to UFC and won the Light Heavyweight title.
However, soon after that his successful and promising career went off track. His performance declined and he started losing competitions. His sister Priscilla was also kidnapped and to this day her whereabouts remain unknown, In 2006, a mediocre Belfort was then caught using banned substances, and disappeared out of the spotlight following the incident.
So after more than four years away from the UFC octagon, Vitor returned in style, defesating former Middleweight champion Rich Franklin, from the US, in the first round.
Despite his reputation as a counterfighter, Franklin stepped forward and threw a slew of punches at the start of the round. Vitor’s reaction came swiftly: a clubbing left hand hit Franklin behind the ear and took him down. As soon as he got up, Belfort threw a combination of punches, and landed another left-handed, heavy punch on his head.
The last punch took Franklin down once more and the referee said he had seen enough. Vitor was the winner. It was the third time that Franklin left the UFC octagon a loser.
“I have trained so hard, I’ve been away from my family for almost three months. I don’t know how I do it, I guess God gave me the gift of speed and power and I’m using it in the right way,” Belfort told UFC commentator Joe Rogan during the TV broadcast of the competition.
After the fight, UFC president Dana White said that Vitor would be the right man to face current Middleweight champion and fellow Brazilian Anderson Silva, who has successfully defended his title five times in a row. White also said that Vitor had proven himself to be a top-level fighter in his comeback bout, and is one of the few in with a chance of dethroning Silva. The date of the Silva Belfort fight is yet to be announced.
The next edition of UFC will take place on October 24 at the Staples Center Arena in Los Angeles, California. At the event, current Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida will try to defend his title against Maurício Rua. Both fighters are from Brazil. UFC 104 will also see the participation of another Brazilian fighter, Gleison Tibau, who will fight American Josh Neer in the Lightweight bout.