Monday, Aug. 1, 2011 | 8 p.m.
Nothing about the way Vitor Belfort speaks would lead anyone to believe he’s coming off of the most lopsided loss of his career.
Belfort took an Anderson Silva front kick to the chin in the first round of their UFC 126 main event bout to end his dreams of holding the middleweight championship belt. Belfort said it took him no time to get over the setback.
“I make sure every day I’m getting happier and having more joy,” he said. “I feel much better. Today, I’m a happier man.”
Part of what has kept Belfort, who trains at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, upbeat is the potential of another shot at the UFC title in the 185-pound division. Belfort (19-9 MMA, 8-5 UFC) faces Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 133 in Philadelphia.
If he wins and Silva defeats Yushin Okami at UFC 134 later this month, Belfort believes a rematch is in order.
“I have a fight with Akiyama, he has a fight in Brazil and then I want to fight for the belt,” Belfort said. “That’s my goal. I want that thing around my waist. I think I have all the credentials that someone needs to fight for the title.”
The path Belfort described to get himself back into the title picture is shorter than the one that appears in front of him. A UFC 136 bout between Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann is expected to serve as a title eliminator, which means Belfort would need at least one more victory after Akiyama in the interim.
Belfort would not complain if that’s what the UFC proposed, but he’s ready to fight Silva again as soon as possible. He felt the best he had in his career heading into the contest and said the kick deprived him of getting an opportunity to show it.
Shortly after the loss, Belfort labeled the front kick knockout as having a one-in-a-thousand chance of working. He hasn’t backed down from those statements heading into UFC 133.
“I was ready to beat him that night and he knew that,” Belfort said. “But he caught me and that was it. I have no excuses, but I think he had a lucky night.”
Silva and Belfort feuded during the week of their fight, capped off by an intense encounter at the weigh-in. Belfort’s comments about getting lucky haven’t sat well with Silva afterwards.
“Vitor don’t respect me,” Silva said during the festivities at UFC 129 earlier this year. “(Vitor) doesn’t respect anything. That’s it.”
The two Brazilian’s back-and-forth banter could help with the possibility of a rematch, as it gives the matchup added marketability. That’s something the Belfort vs. Akiyama pairing doesn’t lack, either.
Much like Belfort, Akiyama is known for letting loose in the cage and getting into fan-friendly wars. Although the Japanese fighter is only 1-2 since joining the UFC, all three of his bouts have earned a Fight of the Night bonus.
But the fact that his last two consecutive losses were close and entertaining does nothing to impress Belfort.
“I don’t think about circumstances,” Belfort said. “I make the circumstance happen. I’m not in the audience. I’m in the ring and I make sure I bring the fight.”
Akiyama hasn’t appeared since a UFC 120 loss to Michael Bisping last October. He was scheduled to face Nate Marquardt at UFC 128, but was a late cancelation after Japan endured a major earthquake and the resulting devastation.
“It’s a good thing Vitor is confident about the fight,” Akiyama told the UFC in a promotional video for the bout, “but I am even more confident I will knock him out.”
The loss to Silva was the first time Belfort had ever been knocked unconscious in his career. With so much riding on the outcome, it was the kind of loss that would devastate some fighters.
“It wasn’t the night I expected, but I’m an overcomer,” Belfort said. “I just dealt with it. Everyone has to deal with the issues we have in our life. That was my issue.”