Never let it be said that Alan Belcher is a dishonest man.
The UFC middleweight contender from Biloxi, MS, recently made headlines after the fallout of his planned UFC 153 bout with Vitor Belfort. After the match was called off, Belcher declared that he had been training despite a spinal fracture.
And while many fighters would play it close to the vest while talking about such scenarios, Belcher was refreshingly candid during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour.
Belcher spoke at length about his motivations for continuing his fight training despite what sounds like a serious injury.
"I've probably had some issues with my back for the past couple years," Belcher said. "And I need some time off. This time it hit me in the middle of this training camp. Actually, the night that I signed the fight with Vitor I came in the next day to train, and 10 minutes into the training session I was laying on the floor and I laid on there for an hour with an ice pack. This time it kept me out for three weeks."
While it might have seemed to make sense to pull out of the fight at this point, he decided to continue on.
"I went to the doctor's he took some X-rays," Belcher said. "He said, there's this bone on the bottom of your spine that's got a fracture on both sides. It looks like it might have been there awhile but you've pushed it over the limit. You can rest, get some intensive therapy but you're probably not going to be able to train for the fight. So I had to make the decision, I took three weeks off, started feeling a little better and I started hitting it hard. At the end of that week my back starting flaring up again."
Belcher finally made the decision to take some time off when the news broke that Belfort accepted a shot at Jon Jones' light heavyweight title on Sept. 22 in Toronto, and thus would no longer fight Belcher.
"That's the news I needed to make this decision," Belfort said. "If you're not going to be 100 percent, don't do it. Don't fight with injuries, don't fight out of shape, and never give up. That's it, that's the three reasons that I'll never lose a fight if I can help it. I fought with some injuries before but at this time, at the level that I"m at, it's not worth it man. I would have only made it worse."
At the same time, Belcher acknowledged that he felt what many might consider an irrational urge to continue training. The 28-year old has won six of his past seven fights, and is just a controversial split-decision loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama away from going undefeated in that span.
And yet, because he's had to take long periods of time off due to injuries, he's not quite at the championship level he in theory should be while he's in his prime. And he knows it, thus the added self-pressure.
"If I want to be the champ, I gotta be a little bit more active and fight more than once a year," he said. "That's why I was being a little bit more impatient, I wanted to fight no matter what. But you know, sometimes no matter how bad you want it, it just isn't working out for you. o now, if I can get back healthy, I'm just gonna put my time in. My patience has definitely been tested the past few years. I'm still a young man, I'm still getting better every day."
Belcher says he'd like to return as soon as November. And he figures a No. 1 contender's fight against Chris Weidman makes sense, given that champion Anderson Silva clearly wants a bout with welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre next.
"I mean to me it makes the most sense," said Belcher. "I'm comfortable with the fight, I feel he's a challenge for me and he's a top contender, he's one of the only people I would really feel that it's the right fight for me in my career right now as far as competition level and ranking-wise. Weidman, he's definitely a great competitor, so, we're both in the same kind of class and same kind of rankings, and it makes sense to me."