It’s a staple on the list of most longtime UFC fans’ favorite images – Vitor Belfort, just 20 years old, blasting through his opponents with blistering hand speed and power. These displays rightfully earned him the nickname of ‘The Phenom’, and even as he matured into a man who eventually held the UFC light heavyweight title in 2004, the fans never left his side. On September 19th, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, Belfort returns to the Octagon for the first time in over four years to take on former middleweight champion Rich Franklin in the light heavyweight main event of UFC 103.
The announcement came today from UFC President Dana White, as he explained why a rematch between Franklin and Dan Henderson was replaced at the top of the UFC 103 bill.
“When we announced that Rich Franklin was fighting Dan Henderson, there was some backlash, and people didn’t like it,” said White. “So we went out and just signed Vitor Belfort. The fans didn’t like the card, we changed it and it’s now Rich Franklin vs Vitor Belfort headlining in Dallas.”
Born in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Belfort (18-8) burst onto the world scene in February of 1997 with blistering stoppages of Tra Telligman and Scott Ferrozzo on the UFC 12 card that lasted a combined two minutes. Three months later, he destroyed Tank Abbott in less than a minute before an upset loss to Randy Couture at UFC 15 in October of 1997.
Belfort would log two more UFC wins over Joe Charles and Wanderlei Silva before traveling to Japan to fight in the PRIDE organization. There, Belfort went 4-1 with his only loss coming to Japanese superstar Kazushi Sakuraba.
In 2002, he returned to the UFC, with wins over Marvin Eastman and Couture (the latter earning him the UFC 205-pound title) sandwiched by losses to Couture, Chuck Liddell, and Tito Ortiz. After the close loss to Ortiz at UFC 51 in 2005, Belfort again took his show on the road, defeating UFC vets Terry Martin and Ivan Serati along the way. In his most recent bout, on January 24th, Belfort scored a spectacular 37 second knockout of Matt Lindland in the Affliction organization. In fact, Belfort, who has won four straight, has scored KOs or TKOs in seven of his last eight victories, proving once and for all that “The Phenom” is back.
“Vitor’s been on a streak again, and he’s back mentally and physically,” said White. “His contract came up and we were interested. I’ve been hinting around at bringing him back, we got it done and it worked out. I think him and Rich is a fun fight.”
Tickets for UFC 103: Franklin vs Belfort, are on sale now and are priced at $450, $350, $250, $150, $100 and $50. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster.com, AmericanAirlinesCenter.com, American Airlines Center Box Office and by phone at 1-800-745-3000. Prices do not include service charges.