Mixed Martial Arts

Belfort happy to test himself against Jones at UFC 152

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The Canadian Press
9/11/2012 7:07:06 PM
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TORONTO -- Not many fighters wanted to step into the cage in Toronto against UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones, according to UFC boss Dana White.

But while others only saw a high possibility of defeat, veteran fighter Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort saw a chance to test himself.

"Now I fight not for the fame, not for the money, not for the position, I fight for pleasure," said the 35-year-old Brazilian who made his pro debut in October 1996 when Jones was nine. "It's a joy ... I'm like a young dinosaur. I'm an old lion in the midst of these young lions. So I'm enjoying this jungle."

"I love challenges and this is another challenge in my life," he added.

That was good news for White, who admitted he had a hard time finding an opponent after Dan Henderson withdrew due to injury.

"No one's too excited to jump around and fight Jon Jones right now," White told a media conference call Tuesday.

"Vitor stepped up and took the fight," he added. "Guys that were next in line for the fight wanted nothing to do with it."

Jones and Belfort face off Sept. 22 at UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre.

It's a matchup of phenoms.

Belfort was nicknamed The Phenom after winning the UFC 12 heavyweight tournament in February 1997, becoming at 19 the youngest fighter to win in the Octagon.

Jones became the UFC's youngest ever champion when he dethroned Mauricio (Shogun) Rua at the age of 23 years 242 days.

Jones (16-1) was slated to meet Henderson at UFC 151 on Sept. 1 in Las Vegas. But the UFC was forced to shelve the event after Jones refused to accept middleweight contender Chael Sonnen as a replacement opponent, saying it was too short notice.

White was irate at the time but has since calmed down. Still, Jones and he have yet to hash it out.

"We'll see each other in Toronto. He and I need to get into a room face to face and talk," White said.

"I've been in this business for 12 years and I've dealt with just about everybody you can deal with -- good guys, bad guys. You know Jon Jones isn't a bad guy."

Said Jones: "I'm over it, man, I really am. I'm actually getting more and excited to talk to Dana and get this behind us."

White said he opted for Belfort over Sonnen as an opponent for Jones in Toronto because the Brazilian was already training for a fight while Sonnen wasn't.

And the UFC boss dismissed any critics of the matchup.

"If you don't like this fight and you don't think it's going to be a great fight, don't watch it," he said dismissively.

Belfort (21-9) has been campaigning as a middleweight (185 pounds) recently but has won titles as a light-heavyweight (205) and heavyweight.

"If the Vitor Belfort shows up that we've seen a million times (with) that explosive knockout power, if Vitor doesn't just stand out there and hang out there, if he fights, this is a very dangerous fight for Jon Jones," said White.

The bookmakers have made Jones a huge favourite, with odds of 9-1 in some places.

Jones doesn't seem to care about the lopsided odds in his favour, or any bad press.

"My name's all over the place right now and I'm looking at the positives in it," he said.

Jones, for one, says he believes there is plenty of interest in the remade main event. In his book, Belfort is popular in Brazil and is a favourite of the "old-school generation of martial fans and the new generation of martial arts fans."

"And right now there's a lot of buzz around my name, whether it's good or bad," he said. "And I think between those two factors a lot of people are going to tune in to watch a phenom versus another phenom."

Belfort has faced seven former UFC or Pride champions over his career: Anderson Silva, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Rich Franklin, Ortiz, Wanderlei Silva and Henderson.

Both Jones and Belfort are vocal about their religious beliefs.

Asked whether cagefighting was at odds with their faith, Jones said he didn't think God gave him any advantage over his opponent.

"I think God could care less about a UFC fight. What I do believe is that God helps me live a certain life," said Jones, who is the son of a pastor. "I'm constantly seeking Christ and I'm constantly trying to develop a stronger relationship with Christ. I'm constantly trying to grow closer to Christ.

"I believe that my relationship with Christ helps me live a better life than what I think most 25-year-olds would be living. I mean right now I have the option to do whatever I want, when I want, be friends with who I want.

"I know it sounds a little taboo to people who don't understand this type of lifestyle but I live a pretty crazy life and I really think if I didn't have Christ in my life I would be a hot mess. There would be a lot of craziness going on."

It's not all been smooth sailing for the young champ. There was drunk driving arrest earlier this year.

Said Belfort: "Jesus only expects one thing from everybody, every Christian. He wants you to do your best. And I'm doing my best, man.

"I'm just here loving people."

But maybe not in the cage.

"I'm there to win," the Brazilian said.

NOTES -- Quinton (Rampage) Jackson's swan song fight in the UFC has been postponed. The former light-heavyweight champion has been forced to withdraw from the UFC 153 co-main event in Brazil against Glover Teixeira due to injury.

Vitor Belfort (Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
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