Belcher returned to work for the first time in 16 months, following a pair of successful eye surgeries for a detached retina, and made quick work of Jason MacDonald at UFC Fight Night 25 in New Orleans, winning by first-round TKO.
But after the fight, Belcher said he needed the win over MacDonald to be sure he was making the right decision to continue fighting rather than considering retirement.
"Even up until tonight, I was kind of uncertain of what I wanted to do," Belcher said at the post-fight press conference after his win. "I gave my all in this training camp and everything, but I was nervous as hell going into this fight, coming back."
But Belcher's nerves apparently dissipated quickly. The win for Belcher (17-6, 8-4 UFC) was his third straight and fifth in six fights – the only blemish in that stretch being a controversial split decision against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 100. And going into the fight with MacDonald, Belcher had four straight post-fight bonus wins, as well.
And now that things went perhaps even better than he could have expected? Well, Belcher doesn't see any reason he can't be right back in the hunt for the middleweight title, the way he was before he was on the shelf for more than a year.
"I missed the feeling, and I feel like I can definitely continue down the path I was on – trying to go for a title shot," Belcher said. "I think that's what I'm going to do now."
Belcher had plenty of support from the crowd at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. His home is in Biloxi, Miss., also on the Gulf Coast and a little over an hour away.
But despite that boost from the fans, and despite the adrenaline coming immediately after the fight, Belcher said he won't start thinking about a future title shot, necessarily – even though he predicts one will come if he keeps on track.
"I still want to take it one fight at a time," Belcher said. "Before I had the injury, I was in such a hurry to try and get a bunch of wins and get to the top and everything. Through this whole experience, it just taught me to be a lot more patient. I've got a feeling that the title shot is going to come faster than I want it to now, so I'm not really worried about it now."