Vitor Belfort’s hotly-anticipated UFC middleweight title challenge to Chris Weidman has been rescheduled for UFC 187 in Las Vegas on May 23. “The Phenom” will attempt to become the first ever UFC ‘triple crown’ winner – adding the 185lbs division title to the 205lbs belt and UFC tournament he has already won.
And it is the Brazilian blaster’s UFC 12 heavyweight title tournament that is the subject of the latest episode of the critically claimed “Fightography” series. In a candid interview, Belfort details his upbringing on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, how he gravitated to legendary trainer Carlson Gracie and how, together, they set out to win the toughest tournament in sports.
“As a boy, I used to spar with grown men on the streets,” Belfort said. “We would put bathroom tissue in our mouths as gum shields and we would spar on the streets. I would knock guys out and my friends said ‘In America they are doing UFC, you could win, but you need to learn ground-fighting, go to Carlson, he will teach you.’”
The young Belfort was as quick a study at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as he was with his fists, and by age 18 he was begging Gracie to take him to the UFC to compete.
He remembers: “I was saying “If I go now, I will be world champion. I will beat all these guys. We need to go to the UFC now’ but Carlson would shake his head ‘Yes, but you are too young, only 18, we go later’ but I wanted to fight.”
Carlson Gracie knew that the UFC would be unlikely to give an untested 18-year-old, who weighed around 25lbs less than most heavyweights, a spot on their next tournament. So the elder statesman of BJJ hatched a plan.
“We accepted a fight with a guy no one wanted to fight,” Belfort recalled. “His name was Jon Hess. He was dirty, he would kick in the balls, eye-gouge, bite, and he was 6ft 7, a giant. He was actually banned after one fight in the UFC (vs Andy Anderson at UFC 5), he was so dirty. I fought Hess at an event called Superbrawl in Hawaii. Just 18. Beating him was my ticket to the UFC.”
The full story of the Hess fight, and Belfort’s entry into the UFC 12 heavyweight tournament can be seen now on UFC FIGHT PASS.
View the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TU8nBqFgVb0
The full interview – along with 30 Belfort fights from the UFC, PRIDE, Strikeforce and Affliction – can be found here http://www.ufc.tv/category/fightography-vitor-belfort?pn=1