After suffering his third consecutive TKO loss at UFC Fight Night 106, Belfort announced that his next fight would be his last.
Vitor Belfort is the original MMA phenom. The 39-year-old has been competing in the sport since 1996 and has developed a reputation as one of the all-time greats.
Belfort broke onto the scene when he demolished Tank Abbott at UFC 13 with his trademark lightening fast hands and quickly became known as the most feared striker in the sport. The Brazilian captured multiple world titles — including the UFC light heavyweight championship — and almost became the first man to stop Jon Jones in the Octagon with a vicious armbar at UFC 152.
With those historic accomplishments comes heavy fight mileage, and Belfort is really starting to feel the toll on his body.
‘The Phenom’ lost to surging middleweight contender Kelvin Gastelum last night at UFC Fight Night Fortaleza, succumbing to a barrage of strikes in the first round. It’s Belfort’s third stoppage loss in a row, and the MMA pioneer announced at the post-fight press conference that his next fight would be his last.
“Yes,” Belfort said when asked if he will retire after his next fight in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro at UFC 212, per MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz. “Unless they create this legends’ division, then we can continue a little longer. But training for five-round fights is too much for the body. I was in great shape, but he connected some good strikes and it was his night.”
Belfort, who turns 40 on April 1, showed flashes of the old Phenom in the opening minutes, putting the 25-year-old Gastelum on the back foot with a series of combinations. But the deterioration of reflexes and timing that comes with age became apparent when Gastelum started teeing off at will.
“I was well prepared, my team worked hard,” Belfort said. “It’s frustrating because I was well until one moment, I was confident I was going to get the knockout, and it was the opposite. But that’s it. We need to reinvent ourselves. It wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last. I mean, I hope it’s the last.”
The former UFC heavyweight tournament winner has had over 14 surgeries throughout his career and admits that his body is in too much pain to be continuing at the elite level of mixed martial arts.
“It’s time to end this chapter as a professional fighter,” he said said. “My body is not the same anymore for training. It’s too much pain. I did more than 14 surgeries. I left everything in the Octagon. I’m sad because I didn’t give the win to my fellow Brazilians, but it happens.”
When asked who he would like to fight in his retirement bout, Belfort said it would have to be someone ‘special’.
“I don’t have any names off the top of my head,” Belfort said. “I just don’t want to fight a Brazilian in Brazil. We have to sit down with the UFC and see which opponent would be an interesting fight. I never turned down fights, always fought the toughest ones in the division, but the last fight has to be special for the fans. Let’s see if that’s possible.”
Belfort is hoping to fight one last time at UFC 212, which will take place in his hometown of Rio at the Jeunesse Arena on June 3.