Friday, Feb. 4, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Talking Points Blog
Although neither Anderson Silva nor Vitor Belfort will admit it, tensions between the two fighters vying for the middleweight title Saturday at UFC 126 have simmered all week.
Take two examples from Wednesday’s press conference as proof. Asked if Belfort was one of the best strikers he’s ever faced, Silva offered a simple “no.” When Silva and Belfort posed for their fight picture, they got inches from each other’s faces and glared.
“I just know one thing: When you say silly things, when you do silly things it’s because you’re worried and you’re trying to wear a mask,” Belfort said at Thursday’s open workouts. “The way I fight and the way I am, I respect. I just need to wear one mask.”
Silva denied there was any extra emotion when he took the photo with Belfort.
“It was normal,” Silva said through a translator. “I don’t think there was anything different.”
Silva and Belfort, both Brazilians, used to train together at Black House in Rio de Janeiro before a falling out, which is speculated to be the source of their dislike toward each other.
Silva initially questioned whether Belfort, who only has one fight as a middleweight, deserved a title shot. He has since backed off of those comments, but hasn’t gone out of his way to hype Belfort as a worthy opponent.
“I think he respects me, a part of me,” Belfort said. “But I think he wears the mask of trying to intimidate me. But he can see in my eyes I’m a fighter. I’m not intimidated by anyone.”
Fighters engage fans at open workouts
Silva had the approximately 600 fans at Thursday’s open workouts standing for most of his 30-minute session on the mat.
Silva put on a show by going through a sparring routine with his 12-year old son, Kalyl.
“I always train with my son,” Silva said. “It’s a really good experience for him in mixed martial arts.”
Silva wasn’t the only fighter who went out of his way to entertain fans at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
After Belfort completed his workout, he spent five minutes addressing the crowd with an impassioned speech about respect.
“It moved my heart,” Belfort said. “They leave their home, they leave their city to come here and buy expensive tickets to watch it, so I have a lot of respect for the fans.”
Light heavyweight Jon Jones, who fights Ryan Bader Saturday, did his part by tossing most of his gear into the stands after his workout. Light heavyweight Forrest Griffin, who fights Rich Franklin Saturday, talked and joked with fans while he went through his workout.
Franklin and Bader also received warm receptions.
Bantamweights excited for UFC debut
The UFC will showcase the first two bantamweight bouts in the organization’s history Saturday after purchasing the WEC.
The second of the two fights, between former WEC Champion Miguel Torres (37-3) and Antonio Banuelos (19-6) will be featured on the pay-per-view main card. Both Torres and Banuelos made appearances at the open workouts.
Banuelos is soon to be the newest Las Vegas-based fighter as his home gym, The Pit, will open a Henderson location on Wigwam Parkway next month.
Torres has lost two of his last three fights after going more than six years without a defeat. He said he was not worried about his UFC debut.
“I’ve never had jitters since my first fight,” Torres said. “I’ve never been nervous. For me, it could be two people or a million and I’ll still go out there and see the person across from me.”