Dana White on Vitor Belfort: Win over Hendo Makes Him No. 1 Contender to MW Belt

Duane Finley@duanefinleymmaContributor INovember 5, 2013

May 18, 2013; Jaragua do Sul, BRAZIL; Vitor Belfort (red shorts) celebrates after defeating  Luke Rockhold (not pictured) during UFC on FX 8 at ARena Jaragua. Mandatory Credit: Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports
Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

There is no doubt Vitor Belfort is one of the top middleweights in the fight game these days. That said, the biggest question surrounding "The Phenom" seems to be exactly where he stands in the current title picture in the middleweight division.

The 37-year-old is in the midst of one of the most impressive runs of his career as he's notched back-to-back victories over top-ranked competition the likes of Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold.

While picking up wins over fighters of that caliber will undoubtedly build momentum, the fashion in which the Brazilian knockout artist salted "The Count" and the former Strikeforce middleweight champion has Belfort's stock riding high.

Nevertheless, when it comes to title opportunities in the UFC, things are rarely clear-cut. Multiple factors affect a championship opportunity coming to fruition, and in the case of the former light heavyweight champion, the path to a second crack at the middleweight title certainly has several obstacles.

The first and foremost obstacle is the upcoming rematch between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva at UFC 168.

Weidman, the Long Island upstart, dethroned the middleweight king at UFC 162 back in July, and with their immediate rematch being booked in the days following the Ray Longo-trained fighter's shocking upset, the 185-pound strap has been out of play.

With the door to a title shot closed for time being, Belfort sought out a challenge of a different variety. Believing he had done enough to earn the next shot at the middleweight title, the Team Blackzilians fighter agreed to return to the light heavyweight division for a showdown with fellow MMA legend Dan Henderson.

The two knockout artists will trade leather this Saturday night in the main event at Fight Night 32 in a rematch seven years in the making. They originally squared off at Pride 32 back in 2006 with "Hendo" taking the unanimous decision victory on the judges' scorecards.

While the bout with Henderson may be taking place outside of the middleweight division, Belfort's position in the title hunt is very much on the line, according to Dana White.

The UFC president addressed the matter when speaking with the media during a conference Tuesday and painted a clear picture of what the potential outcomes would mean for Belfort's title hopes.

"I would say yes...definitely," White answered when asked if Belfort was currently the No. 1 contender in line to face the winner of the upcoming bout between Weidman and Silva.

In the same turn, the UFC president also detailed that position would disappear with a loss to Henderson Saturday night.

With Silva vs. Weidman II yet to happen, and the possibility of a Silva victory opening the door for a "rubber match," White wasn't willing to guarantee Belfort the next position in line. But should the former multi-divisional title challenger find success against Henderson at Fight Night 32, his case for title contention will be difficult to deny.


Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.