Vitor Belfort was offered an interim title bout with Lyoto Machida when Chris Weidman pulled out from UFC 184 with a rib injury, but "The Phenom" turned down the fight. Fellow middleweight contender Ronaldo Souza is willing to step up and replace him against anyone if that’s what the UFC wants.
Souza is undefeated in the UFC with four wins in a row, capped off by a third-round submission over Gegard Mousasi. Jacare's manager Gilbert Faria believes that an interim title has to be created after another injury from the middleweight champion, and Belfort should not choose who he wants to fight.
"As a MMA fan and a fan of Vitor Belfort, I would like to see this fight between Weidman and Belfort. With Weidman’s injury and the fact that we don’t know when he’s going to be able to return, it’s the right decision to create an interim title," Faria told MMAFighting.com. "If Vitor doesn’t want to fight or wants to pick opponents, he loses his right to fight for the interim title.
"If we look at the rankings, ‘Jacare’ is the next in line for the title. He can fight Lyoto Machida, Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero, or even Belfort for the interim title, and then wait for Weidman. Belfort is picking opponents, and that’s not what champions do. That’s wrong. And it’s also wrong to stop the whole division."
A former Strikeforce middleweight champion, "Jacare" was scheduled to meet Romero at UFC 184 on Feb. 28, but withdrew from the card due to pneumonia. Back to training, the middleweight contender eyes a bout in April, and Faria hopes he returns in an interim title bout.
"‘Jacare’ is already back to training, healthy, and will be ready to fight anyone in April," he said. "We don’t pick opponents. Belfort, Lyoto, Romero, Luke. Whoever they want, especially for the interim title, we will take the fight. We’re in. ‘Jacare’ is ready to become champion, and that will happen sooner or later. In April, we will be ready to fight anyone. The UFC can count on us."