After 20 years, Vitor Belfort still believes he is evolving as a fighter. And he sought out to show that Saturday night.
The UFC legend said he wanted to go the distance in his fight with Nate Marquardt at UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro. That was part of the game plan, Belfort said. It worked. “The Phenom” captured a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) victory to snap a three-fight losing streak.
“We are reinventing Vitor Belfort again,” Belfort said at the post-fight press conference. “So, we are changing a lot of things in the game, a lot of things I was doing wrong. Not rushing, taking my time. We had more power in the third round than the first round. That’s a good thing.”
Belfort, 40, has been known throughout his decorated career for spurts of speed and power that quickly ended the nights of his opponents. Now two decades into this career, Belfort is looking toward a new approach while training in a new environment: Tristar Gym in Montreal. This is the first time Belfort has gone to a decision since 2007.
“Every victory, you have to be happy,” Belfort said. “I want to knock him out and I hurt him pretty bad in the second round, in the third round. He was throwing some kicks just to buy time. I was making mistakes not checking the kicks. But i wanted to fight three rounds. I wanted to go all the way. I want to enjoy the fights.”
Belfort (26-13, 1 NC) alluded to this being a possible retirement fight after he lost to Kelvin Gastelum by first-round TKO in March. This week, though, he changed his tune, saying he still has more fights left on his UFC deal and he doesn’t plan on going anywhere. After the victory, Belfort told interviewer Brian Stann in the cage that he still has another five fights left in him. Belfort said he told Tristar coach Firas Zahabi the same thing.
“Something stirred in me, so I love to train again, I love to fight again,” Belfort said. “That’s something that’s been away from me for my last three fights, to tell you the truth. I was burned out.”
It wasn’t the best camp in Canada. Belfort said it was only three weeks and he got a cut on his forehead in the second week that needed 10 stitches to close. That’s why the Brazilian was wearing sunglasses and a beanie indoors all week, to cover the cosmetic damage.
None of that ended up mattering in the bout. Belfort did close strong, winning the third round clearly. The first two were much closer and many felt Marquardt did enough to win. But all three judges gave Belfort the nod.
With a much more positive view than he has had in a while, Belfort is open to anything next. He said he has one fight remaining on his UFC deal, but he plans on leaving the business end of things to his team. The training and fighting is what Belfort said he’ll focus on and he’s back to being thrilled by those again.
Saturday night marked Belfort’s 40th fight and maybe he didn’t look like the “Phenom” of old, but it was good enough to get an important win.
Belfort said he recently listened to a speech by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard and it opened his eyes.
“Everyone is a failure,” Belfort said. “Beyonce, before she became a hitmaker, she failed. Everyone’s got failures. Failure is just a step to victory. Unfortunately, now we’re used to everything fast.
“Unfortunately, not everything works like SnapChat or Instagram or Twitter. There’s certain things that take time and you have to have patience and confidence to know that everything is going to work out.”
The Belfort brand, recently refurbished, is still humming along.