The most drastic version of Vitor Belfort — the spirit-run berserker of 2013 — knocked Dan Henderson at a time when Dan Henderson never got knocked out. Two years later, the more believable-looking version blasted Henderson again, just for good measure. This time Belfort wasn’t on TRT. Neither was Hendo. But Hendo was still 45 damn years old, a shotgun shell left over from the hootenanny days of spring.
And Belfort? Well, you see, that’s more complicated.
At just 38 years old, Belfort lives on. You can drag him through the mud, hurl asterisks at him until your arm gives out, counter his righteousness with wrongeousness, try to stick a (pitch)fork in him — but he’s back on them rungs, baby. He’s going to be part of your life, whether you like it or not. He’s a fight game Kardashian.
You knew going into Saturday night’s fight card that whichever story line emerged was going to take some time to digest. If Hendo won, my god. Yet if Belfort won, my god my god my god. Belfort said beforehand that he believed he had one more title run in him, bringing his grand total of title runs to 50 (a UFC record).
Now he’s got his "eye" on Luke Rockhold, another cat he skinned in that free-for-all era of loophole enhancement. Rockhold is busy for the time being. He fights Chris Weidman for the middleweight belt next month at UFC 194. Should he win the title, well, Rockhold has a special streak of evil that he wants to enact on Belfort.
My god my god my god.
Not to take anything away from Belfort, who did what he needed to do in Sao Paulo Saturday night. He came into the Octagon and coolly waited for Henderson to zombie-up and come forward. Henderson was cautious, though, he wasn’t just going to run into the burning building. And for the first two minutes of the bout both fighters stood at range sizing each other up. It was actually sort of comical. Henderson hit Belfort with three isolated leg kicks, but they were dainty shots, just little sweet nothings that Belfort barely noticed.
Then Belfort made his first offensive, a high kick, which Henderson didn’t pick up peripherally, nor centrally. It landed — like it did in 2013 — and Henderson was about to get reacquainted with the blitzkrieg that is Belfort when he smells blood in the water. Belfort came flying in and put it on Henderson, who took a punch on the ground and momentarily went limp. It was enough for referee Mario Yamasaki to jump in and call Belfort off.
Fight over. Anticlimactic? A little. Complicated? A lot. This fight was never going to be anything other than that.
Belfort is still around. Belfort isn’t going anywhere. Belfort is going to haunt the middleweight division — and soon enough, Dana White’s cell phone — until somebody does something about it.
Tim Kennedy, the semi-retired vendetta man who detests cheaters with a dark kind of passion, would love to lay hands on Belfort. So would Michael Bisping, who was also a casualty of the Original Revival of 2013. So would Rockhold and a dozen others.
It’s (probably) not possible for Belfort to stay in business forever, but it feels like he could — and it feels like he already has. He just boarded up the windows on Henderson’s career, and he’s open to doing that to others.
At this point Belfort’s no longer the "Phenom," but his 18-year career is phenomenal in the strictest sense. He beat Tra Telligman — who had but one pectoral muscle — at UFC 12 to get it started. That was in Nineteen Hundred and Ninety Seven. Nearly two decades later, after many trials and tribulations and a dozen knockouts in the UFC (a record), Belfort is still rolling. He is covered with red tape, but he’s not going anywhere.
Nowhere but up anyway, to hear him tell it.
Belfort joked to MMA Junkie afterwards that he was still fueled by TRT — "True Revival Touch" — a little twist on the black mark he’s now forced to live without. As for the rest of us? Hey, it’s as complicated as the joke itself. The truth of the matter is that Belfort’s still around, and — taking his many triumphs in stride with his many black marks — it’s a complexity that everyone’s got to live with.
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