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At the beginning of the year, Vitor Belfort didn't expect to be challenging for his old UFC Light Heavyweight belt against Jon Jones since he'd been fighting at Middleweight since 2008. He also didn't expect to be training under an old teammate from his very beginnings in the sport.
Belfort left Xtreme Couture and joined the Blackzillians in Florida. That team, founded around Rashad Evans, is now coached by Belfort's old teammate and mentor Mario Sperry. The two men both learned Jiu-Jitsu from the legenday Carlson Gracie and were lynchpins of Carlson's team in the 1990s.
MMA Fighting's Mike Chiappetta spoke to the two men about their prodigal relationship. He opened the discussion by asking Sperry when the two first met:
"That's a funny question," says the gray-haired Sperry, because he can barely remember a time when he didn't know Vitor. He knew him before he was "the Phenom," and before he was even in MMA. As it turns out, he first met Belfort when he was seven years old, around their Rio neighborhood."We've worked together many times on many occasions, and now our destinies crossed again," he said.
"Everything (Vitor) does in sports, he does very well.
"Life is funny," Sperry said. "Things can change very fast. We just met each other again, and it's like old times. Vitor is much more mature but he's still strong and fast. At some points we went different ways but now we're back together. Life is funny, and sometimes it gives you great surprises."
It would be fitting if Belfort could finally fulfill the promise that seemed so manifest when he first entered MMA in the 1990s while working with a fellow disciple of Carlson Gracie.