Vitor Belfort is one of the better fighters in the history of MMA. The 35-year-old Brazilian has won UFC heavyweight tournaments, the UFC light heavyweight title, and fought the best of the best over the entire course of his career. When it was announced last night that Belfort will be stepping up to fight Jon Jones for the title at UFC 152 on September 22nd, I was as shocked as anyone. But after letting it marinate for a little while and discussing it with smart people, one thing became clear.
We shouldn't get our hopes up too high, because Vitor might not even make it to Toronto on September 22nd.
The Phenom has knocked out fourteen opponents in his career, often with highlight-reel finishes. But he has also done great damage to his hands in the process, and sustained a multitude of other injuries as well. He has consistently had issues over the course of his career, and it's only gotten worse in the last four years. Let's look at a brief list:
Affliction: Day of Reckoning vs. Matt Lindland - hand injury (card was rescheduled, fought Lindland anyway)
UFC 112 vs. Anderson Silva - injured shoulder, removed from card
UFC 133 vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama - contracted Hepatitis A, still fought
UFC 139 vs. Cung Le - undisclosed injury, removed from card
UFC 147 vs. Wanderlei Silva - broken hand, required surgery, removed from card
Belfort is returning from that hand surgery and expected to fight in October. Now his bout has been moved up three weeks and he's fighting a guy much bigger than him in Jones. He has often been characterized, by fans and some other fighters, as a guy that lacks heart. Anderson Silva famously called him a coward on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil, and Wanderlei Silva said he was just scared. I won't personally take a stance on that, and I don't think he'd take a fight then pull out of it just for the publicity factor, but I've seen stranger things in MMA.
This could all be hooey and Belfort could very well show up healthy and ready to reclaim the title he held so long ago. But you shouldn't be all that surprised if Jones is standing across from a different opponent in the Air Canada Centre next month. I won't be surprised, that's for sure.