More than a few UFC middleweight contenders campaigned for a title shot after Chris Weidman's second-round left hook plunged the division into uncharted waters on Saturday night. But the loudest among them, by far, was the man ranked No. 2 behind Weidman on the UFC's official rankings: Vitor Belfort.
"Who deserves that title shot more than me?" Belfort asked on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "Come on. Look at what I did to the top two contenders. I defeated the world champion of Strikeforce. I defeated the No. 1 contender of the UFC, Michael Bisping. I not just defeated them, but I defeated them in (exciting) fashion."
UFC President Dana White dismissed Belfort's pleas under the belief that it'd be hard to sell Silva on a fight against the man he violently knocked out just two years prior. However Weidman's stunning coup d'état, coupled with Silva's surprising reluctance to agree to a rematch, leads Belfort to believe his time has come.
"I guess sometimes you have to ask," Belfort said.
"So I'm asking. I did everything and now I'm asking. I'm asking for what I deserve. It's not what I want, it's what I deserve. And I deserve that. Everybody knows my history in the sport. I'm the T-Rex in this jungle, and I'm so mature; I'm so strong mentally, physically, spiritually, and also my skills, I've developed so much. I know that goal is about to be accomplished."
Belfort's résumé is unquestionably the sturdiest of anyone in the division not named Silva. Since landing on the former champ's highlight reel, "The Phenom" has rattled off a 4-0 record at middleweight, plus come the closest to dethroning UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
In the case of his two most recent victories, ‘Knockout of the Year' candidates over Bisping and Luke Rockhold, both opponents looked to be in line for title shots with a win, yet neither could last two rounds with Belfort, which only increases the Brazilian's frustration.
"I think we need to start having rules," Belfort said of the UFC's matchmaking.
"I'm in a position where I don't earn [a title shot] for all I did and for all I'm doing. So I think, my perspective, I earned that shot. I think that fans, media, they all agree with that.
"The UFC, when they need me, I step into the cage," Belfort continued. "Every time they need me, I step into the cage. Two weeks notice, I stepped up to fight Jon Jones. No excuses. I didn't ever give an excuse about what I had, what kind of injuries I had. But I was there, and that's something that some people [can't say].
"When they give that fight to me, when they look in my eyes, when they shake hands, they know who I am. They know what I bring to the table."
Belfort is nothing if not determined, as White and the "172 text messages" on his cell phone can attest.
Silva's reputation as the greatest fighter to ever live may have taken a significant hit on Saturday night, mainly due to the manner in which he lost. But if you ask Belfort, he isn't surprised that Silva's in-cage antics finally caught up to him.
"The first thing you learn (in martial arts) is respect," Belfort said. "Your opponent across the other side of the mat, the Octagon, he is the most important person in that moment for you, because that's the person who makes you compete, who gives you the pleasure to entertain people. But I see martial arts not just from an entertainment side. I see it as a sport. And as a sport, like in NBA, NFL, we have a code of conduct. And that's something that the UFC, we need to start having that. I think [Silva] really didn't have any conduct on this fight. He acted inappropriately and it wasn't the first time, so I hope this will be the last time that he does."
Regardless of Belfort's pleas, it's clear Silva holds all the cards at the present moment. Both White and Weidman remain insistent on booking an immediate rematch, with a February 1 date in Newark, N.J. on Super Bowl weekend as the most likely option. Given the circumstances, the bout could potentially blossom into the biggest fight in UFC history. However Belfort isn't ready to concede just yet.
"I really believe Anderson deserves another chance at the title, but I think there'd be more interest in me and Chris, and then the winner will take Anderson. I think that'd be more sellable," Belfort concluded.
"Anderson has to rest. He doesn't want to make any decision before that, and I respect what he did for the sport. But we cannot stop. We cannot stop a division because someone is waiting for a fighter to make a decision. What makes sense is me and Chris to fight. We could make that fight right now. We could sign the papers, sign the contract next week."