Co-main for UFC 167 almost set

Vitor Belfort
UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson early prelims start Saturday at 5:30/2:30p ET/PT.
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Mike Chiappetta

Mike Chiappetta has documented the fast-growing sport of mixed martial arts since 2006 for news organizations including SB Nation, NBCSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, AOL and ESPN. He appears regularly as an analyst on countless television shows and radio programs, including CBS Radio and MMA Beat. Follow him on Twitter.


The UFC 167 event scheduled for Nov. 16 is being planned as the promotion's 20th anniversary show, and as such, president Dana White is prepared to pull out all the stops to ensure a showcase card. Step one was the inclusion of the company's biggest pay-per-view star, Georges St-Pierre, who will defend his welterweight championship against top contender Johny Hendricks at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Step two might be another bombshell matchup.

As reported on Tuesday's edition of UFC Tonight, White is enthusiastic about the possibility of pairing Vitor Belfort against Lyoto Machida on the show.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 06: Vitor Belfort celebrates after knocking out Yoshihiro Akiyama in a middleweight bout at UFC 133 at Wells Fargo Center on August 6, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Al Bello/Zuffa LLC

The idea has not yet been agreed upon by both sides, although Machida's camp told Ariel Helwani that he'd be amenable to the matchup at 185 pounds, 205 pounds or even a catch weight provision.

White prefers the bout to take place at middleweight, but is open to the possibility of having Belfort move up to light-heavyweight, as he did last September when he fought champion Jon Jones on short notice.

Machida (19-4) is coming off a controversial unanimous decision loss to Phil Davis earlier this month. He has never competed as a middleweight in his UFC career, although he easily makes weight, routinely weighing in around 203 pounds. In the past, he has flirted with the idea of dropping a weight class, but never did so out of deference to his friend, former champion Anderson Silva, who ruled over the division for nearly seven years.

Lyoto Machida enters the arena before his light heavyweight bout against Phil Davis during UFC 163 at HSBC Arena on August 3, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Despite White’s interest in the fight as a Las Vegas attraction, Machida’s camp reportedly believes that a matchup with Belfort (23-10) can sell out an arena in Brazil.

If Belfort says no to an offer of fighting Machida, he may be quickly running out of options. Within the last few weeks, he turned down a fight with Tim Kennedy and then sidestepped a proposed bout with Blackzilians teammate Rashad Evans, who publicly declined the contest.

After knocking out Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold in back-to-back bouts, Belfort has said he would like to wait and compete against the winner of December's rematch between Silva and new champion Chris Weidman, but if that isn't possible, he would prefer to fight in another weight class. His demands have drawn the ire of White, who recently noted he has passed communication with him along to UFC chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta. With another offer seemingly headed his way, the pressure rises to say yes.

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