Vitor Belfort: Even at 38 years old, ‘I expect greatness’

No. 1 middleweight contender Vitor Belfort may have been the most exciting fighter of 2013 and once again fighting for a world championship here in 2015 this Saturday against Chris Weidman at UFC 187, but his journey in MMA began long ago. In fact, Belfort’s professional fight career goes back so far, it predates the sport’s current name.

Back then, the sport was predominantly called NHB (No Holds Barred) or the Brazilian Portuguese phrase, Vale Tudo (anything, or everything, goes). As young as 13, Belfort knew he wanted to train to enter that world and told his coach, Carlson Gracie Sr., so.

"I was 13 years old when I met Carlson Gracie," Belfort told the Countdown to UFC 187 crew. "He’s one of the legends, one of the guys who created the sport. He looked at me and said, ‘Vitor, you have talent. What do you want to do?’

"I said, ‘I want to do Vale Tudo.’ … He said, ‘Wow, you’re so young.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s going to be my advantage. Can you imagine when I’m 18 years old?’ And, he said, ‘Wow.’ I was a dreamer, and the more I fed my dream, it became real."

Belfort would make his UFC debut as a teenager, just six years later at 19. Let’s just say that his nickname of "The Phenom" was well-earned.

Belfort won his first four professional fights by first-round knockout as he became a UFC heavyweight tournament champion.

Phenomenal as he was, Belfort has showed fantastic durability. More than 18 years after his professional debut, Belfort is still one of the sport’s best and biggest stars. 

Though most will allow that the champion Weidman deserves to be considered the favorite this Saturday when he defends his belt in Las Vegas, no one in their right mind would say that Belfort doesn’t have a chance to score a flash KO — his signature. Belfort, of course, expects that he can win and become a champion again.

But perhaps most important, he is proud to simply still be fighting the best fighters in the world at 38 years old.

"I want to fight the best guys," he said. "I have the pleasure to see my resume [and] I fought the best guys of the sport. And, that’s part of my legacy. What good is it to beat someone who you can beat at any time? No, I want to fight the best."

Belfort always has, and he will yet again on Saturday. He may be the underdog, but he’s a live one, as always.

At the end of the day, after so many decades of work, success and making his dreams come true, Belfort still expects great things out of himself. He can’t help but.

"I expect greatness," he said. "I live every day [to] achieve greatness. The way I brush my teeth, the way I make my breakfast, the way I treat my wife … When you live with greatness in you, and you know you are doing your best, that’s the only thing I can expect, is greatness."

I live every day [to] achieve greatness. The way I brush my teeth, the way I make my breakfast, the way I treat my wife … That’s the only thing I can expect, is greatness.

-- Vitor Belfort