MANILA, Philippines – At 35 years old, Brazilian fighter Vitor Belfort is a decade older than the man he is challenging for the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) light heavyweight title – reigning champion Jon “Bones” Jones.
But Belfort believes that his considerable experience in mixed martial arts (MMA) will eventually help him overcome Jones’ physical advantages when they fight at UFC 152 this September 22.
“I have a lot of respect for Jon Jones,” Belfort said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”
“Stepping into this fight, it’s old lion versus young lion, so it’s pretty cool,” he noted.
Belfort was installed as a massive underdog against Jones, who has rolled through the light heavyweight division in the past year and a half.
But the Brazilian said he has all sorts of tricks in his arsenal that he can use against the champion.
“I’m an old lion, I have tricks, you know what I mean?” he said. “I’ve been around. I’ve taken all kinds of beatings in life, not just inside the Octagon, but outside as well.”
“It’s just about using my experience and using my knowledge and getting ready,” Belfort said.
Belfort then reflected on his career, pointing out that he won his first championship in 1996. “I don’t know what Jon Jones was doing then,” he said.
Belfort earned the nickname “The Phenom” when, at the age of 19, he won the heavyweight tournament at UFC 12.
In his UFC career, he has won the light heavyweight title once and fought at heavyweight and middleweight as well.
“How many guys from my era are around? Not much... I’m privileged to fight a guy like (Jones). 17 years of a career, and having this chance for the light heavyweight title,” Belfort said.
“It’s a title that I had before in 2004. Here I am again with this opportunity,” he added.
Belfort earned the shot at Jones’ belt when his fellow Brazilian, former champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, pulled out of the UFC 152 main event.