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Trading Shots: Vitor Belfort wants 5 more fights, but where and why?

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After his unanimous-decision win over Nate Marquardt at UFC 212, Vitor Belfort declared he had five more fights left in him. Should those happen in the UFC? Or at all? Retired WEC and UFC fighter Danny Downes joins MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes to discuss.

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Downes: Vitor Belfort surprised us again on Saturday night, Ben. We all thought the “Young Dinosaur” was going to go out there against Nate Marquardt, show off his trademark explosiveness, and ride into the Brazilian sunset. Instead, he threw 37 strikes over the course of three rounds, went to a decision for the first time in a decade, and declared that he has five more fights left. Five fights!

While you and I may question that decision, there’s no doubt in my mind that Belfort means what he said and plans on competing in another five fights. The real question is, who and where should he fight? Is there still a place in the UFC for Belfort, or would he be better off somewhere else?

Fowlkes: Before I get into the question of where/if Belfort should seek these five extra fights, I want to ask the simple question that I fear I already know the answer to. That question is: why?

What, he’s just five fights from total happiness? Or maybe it’s that he thinks those five fights will forever alter his legacy, changing everything about the way he remember him once he finally retires?

More likely, those five more fights will bring him five more paychecks, and that’s what this is really about. I get it. But then, when is he not going to feel like he could stand to pocket a little more money? If that’s what’s keeping you going, what’s it going to take to stop you?

As for where Belfort (26-13 MMA, 15-10 UFC) should seek this arbitrary number of fights, my primary answer is: not in the UFC. That whole “legends league” idea? If his fight with Marquardt (35-18-2 MMA, 13-11 UFC) is a glimpse of what we could expect from that, I’ll pass. It wasn’t a horrible fight, but it was slow and plodding and in many ways disappointing – and I think we both know it could have been much, much worse than it actually was.

If Belfort wants to continue on as a kind of post-relevance sideshow, he should go where sideshows are most welcome – either Bellator or Rizin FF. But come on, Danny, what are we going to say if he resurfaces in Japan in time for New Year’s, and suddenly Dadbod Vitor gives way to the ripped monster of the testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT) era?

Downes: Is it really that hard for you to imagine that someone might do something for reasons other than personal profit? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. You did decide to pursue an English degree after all. Always out there chasing those Daniel Defoe dollars and James Fenimore Cooper cash. When will you realize there are other pursuits besides money?

Why Belfort wants to continue to fight isn’t particularly interesting to me. Despite the lackluster entertainment value of Belfort vs. Marquardt, all Belfort cares about is that he won. It was the first time he had a fight camp with the Tristar team and he probably thinks he’ll be even better the next time out because of it.

He’s been fighting professionally for more than 20 years, and he’s not prepared to give it up yet. There will come a day when other professionals and your family tell you to step away from the laptop, and you’ll resist. “Wait!” you’ll say. “I still have more unnecessary nicknames to give fighters who don’t want them!”

As for where Belfort’s next fights should take place, I have to agree with you. Outside a rematch with Anderson Silva, the only other intriguing matchup I could think of would be Belfort vs. Daniel Kelly. That only gives us two of his desired five fights. His legends tour will most likely have to continue in Bellator or Rizin FF.

As for your wild speculation about Belfort in Rizin FF, I have to ask you one question, “What did Vitor Belfort ever do to you?” You and your friends in the so-called media already tried to ruin his career, and now you’re taking even more shots.

If Belfort shows up looking like an action figure again, then yes, I suppose it would follow that he was back using some prescription-strength medicine. In all likelihood, that Belfort will never show up again.

He’s a 40-year-old man trying to squeeze a couple more years out of the career he loves. I know you’re still mad at him for his TRT use (while numerous other fighters don’t receive the same invective), but let the guy fool himself. Isn’t that what the majority of fighters do anyway?

Fowlkes: Finally, someone willing to stand up for the fighter’s right to a financially profitable form of self-delusion. How brave.

Look, I agree that it’s probably not entirely about money. (Though, to be fair, Belfort is the same guy who once suggested that maybe all his fans should invest in his training camps by sending him cash, so it’s not like he hates getting paid.) I’m sure part of it is because, like you said, he’s been at this for so long that he’s not sure how to live a life that doesn’t have this in it.

As for why he gets more scrutiny for his TRT past, dude, you know why. When Belfort was on the good stuff, he looked like a living He-Man cartoon. He arguably ruined the TRT party for everyone, just because of the overwhelming visual evidence that he was probably abusing it.

Also, he was crushing people back in those days – and by those days I mean back when he was fighting exclusively in Brazil, because no one was even sure if a guy who’d been caught doing steroids once already could even get permission to use TRT in the states.

The difference between that Belfort and the one that followed is dramatic. When they took the magic juice away, suddenly he looked like someone’s dad and fought like a mere mortal showing his age. It clearly had an impact on his performance, and, largely for that reason, his legacy.

So it’s worth asking where he’ll end up and what the rules will be there. You can’t look at the ups and downs of his career and tell me it doesn’t matter.

What I wonder is, as long as he ends up in a promotion where we can tell ourselves that his fights don’t really matter, which Belfort would we prefer? Because if he finds himself in a Japanese freak show, I’m guessing a lot of fans wouldn’t mind at all if he looked around and decided, hey, when in Rome…

For more on UFC 212, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has also written for UFC.com and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.



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