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Vitor Belfort says Reebok deal left him 'pretty much living in slavery'

Vitor Belfort talks about fighter pay, the next generation, and his legacy in the sport as he prepares to take on Ronaldo Jacare at UFC 198, on May 14.

Vitor Belfort via USA TODAY Sports
Vitor Belfort via USA TODAY Sports
Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

A true veteran of the sport, and close to his 37th professional fight, Vitor Belfort is none too happy with the way the UFC handles sponsorship these days. In fact, as he spoke to Sportv, "The Phenom" says the Reebok deal feels too close to slavery, compared to how it was before the new contract arrived.

"MMA is a lot closer to entertainment than sport these days. I'm not satisfied with the way the company is handling sponsorship. We are pretty much living in slavery. We can't use our own sponsors, they are banned inside the Octagon. We have no properties."

Since the Reebok deal was established, in July 2015, Belfort said it has become his personal task to leave a legacy where fighters won't be treated this poorly in such a brutal and unforgiving sport.

"The good thing about breaking records is when you're not worried about it. When you are, it becomes frustrating. My happiness comes from within. Breaking records is what I do best. I hope I can leave a legacy which fighters can use to raise awareness about a minimum wage pay. It's a contact sport. I don't think it's fair for someone to earn 500 dollars to be elbowed in the face. There has to be a retirement plan, which does not exist now. That's something for the next generation. They need to save their money and invest. They need to know the athlete life will end."

Now, the 38-year-old knows his career is approaching its end, and his last fight could always be the next one, but Belfort doesn't worry too much. He says he has been fighting just for the love of it for a while now.

"All my next fights could be my last. So you should make your dream as if it was your last, too. I'm very happy with my career and everything I conquered. I do this because I love it, today. I'm still a voice to be heard. I can still help the sport."

Vitor Belfort is expected to take on Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in the co-main event of UFC 198, in Curitiba, Brazil, on May 14. The card will be headlined by a heavyweight title fight between champion Fabricio Werdum and challenger Stipe Miocic.