Vitor Belfort’s Ever-Present Jiu Jitsu Skeptics Circle UFC 198

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

All the speculation about a dramatically altered post-TRT Belfort came to end as he let off a stinging combination in the clinch against Chris Weidman, when they met for the middleweight title at UFC 187. On his exit from their tie-up, Belfort connected with a well-placed right hook that stumbled the defending champion, which opened up a cut over his eye in the process.

Less than a minute into the contest, Belfort proved that he deserved to have his moment in the ring with the best middleweight in the world. Yet, after answering one question, the first round finish of the fight relit a fire under an old debate that has popped up on a few occasions throughout Belfort’s career.

Weidman pounced on a takedown two minutes into the bout before he transitioned to the mount position. Having won his black belt over 20 years before their meeting, Belfort’s inability to defend the position as Weidman pummeled him with shots was deliberated for weeks after the bout.

‘The Phenom’ is no stranger to people doubting his ability on the mats. Belfort remembered the criticism Carlson Gracie received for awarding him his black belt after four years of training, having begun his study of the martial art with the legend when he was 13 years old.

“With Carlson, it became ridiculous,” Belfort told Tatame magazine. “He gave me a black belt when I was 17 years old. Everyone criticized him, saying that I had never competed. He said: ‘Come train with Vitor to see’.

“If the guy trains in the gi and has the proper techniques, no need to compete, he can now earn a black belt. You don’t need to be world champion for that. Sometimes the guy is not a champion but has the right to have a black belt. Jiu jitsu is also a sport.”

By the time he enters the Octagon to face Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, nearly an entire year will have passed since his last outing against Weidman.

The Brazilian MMA legend has surrounded himself with some big names from the grappling world to prepare for the jiu jitsu standout, with Olympic wrestling gold medalist Kenny Monday and Marcelo Garcia black belt Matheus Diniz being drafted into his camp in Brazil.

Speaking ahead of his semi-final showing at EBI 6, Diniz expressed that Belfort is still more than capable of holding his own on the mats.

“Vitor is a killer,” said Diniz. “He really is a phenom, you know? Every time I taught him something, by the second time he did it, he was already doing it better than me. He’s a true champ. His jiu jitsu is excellent. He’s a black belt under Carlson Gracie. That’s all you’ve got to say to realize how great at jiu jitsu he is. He looks great and I really can’t wait for his fight with ‘Jacare’. It’s going to be awesome.”

Surging middleweight contender ‘Jacare’ is the last man in the entire division that fighters would want to meet on the mat. The former Strikeforce champion has claimed three submission wins in his six UFC outings, and even forced a tap from another savvy grappler, Gegard Mousasi, in their rematch in September 2014.

Souza already left a legendary grappling career behind him before he made his first walk to the Octagon. The 36-year-old has claimed an ADCC super fight championship and won the middleweight category of the competition in 2005. To add to that, he has also claimed a number of world championships under the Confederação Brasileira de Jiu-Jitsu banner, with his best showing also coming in 2005 where he took home gold in his division and in the open weight bracket at black belt. ‘Jacare’ also won the BJJ World Cup in 2004.

Befort is not in an admirable position. While there is absolutely no shame in succumbing to Souza’s iconic style on the ground, his critics probably won’t factor that into any analysis they give should the situation occur at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba.

The press conference for UFC 187 hadn’t even finished by the time that Reddit pages were thick with the debate surrounding Belfort’s credentials in the gentle art. Gifs floated around social media feeds accentuating his struggle against the grounded strikes of Weidman that eventually forced Herb Dean to step in and stop the contest.

A man adored by his country, should Belfort manage to claim a win over Souza, the momentum of the win would carry him right back into the title conversation. Coming off his loss to Yoel Romero, Souza has just as much pressure on him to prove that he is ready for another crack at the shark tank at the top of the division. 


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