We know now that Vitor Belfort was being too modest back in September of 2012, when he unwittingly dubbed himself the “Young Dinosaur” during an interview with MMAFighting.com.
After all, dinosaurs eventually went extinct.
In retrospect, it would’ve been more accurate for Belfort to compare his longevity to death itself, taxes maybe, or—to borrow an expression from Henry Rollins—the tenacity of the cockroach.
Unlike the giant reptilian beasts of yore, there appears to be no end in sight for Belfort. Just when you think he’s down for the count, the guy photobombs UFC 175.
If he manages to pull off this latest Lazarus act, it may go down as the strangest reappearing trick in a career full of them. Belfort still has to secure a license from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, but, assuming he does, we learned on Wednesday the 37-year-old veteran will take Wanderlei Silva’s place in a high-profile July 5 pay-per-view bout against Chael Sonnen.
Not too shabby for a man who began this week still mired in limbo, waylaid by Nevada’s ban on testosterone therapy, a murky drug test and his sudden withdrawal from UFC 173. As recently as April, Dana White was still putting his name in the same sentences as words like “banned” and “hilarious” and quipping that Belfort was “fooling himself” when the fighter proclaimed himself ready to return.
Suddenly, it’s Silva who is out and—presto change-o—Belfort is back in play.
Theoretically, things could still get dicey for him during that June 17 hearing in Las Vegas. So far, his camp has done its level best to keep the results of the surprise drug test he took back in February under wraps. It’s widely assumed that when he appears in front of the NSAC, those enormous, heavily muscled chickens will come home to roost.
If Belfort failed that test, it’s unthinkable that the commission would just let him waltz back into action without some sort of suspension. If he passed it, then he got maybe the worst public-relations advice in history when his handlers convinced him to keep it secret.
Yet, in practice, we have every reason to believe Belfort will sail over this regulatory hurdle with the greatest of ease. Surely the UFC wouldn’t pluck him out of thin air and put him forward as a replacement for Silva if the fight company wasn’t reasonably sure he’d emerge from the process unscathed.
Lorenzo Fertitta told me last week Vitor has been submitting voluntary tests to NSAC for weeks. Aguilar confirmed that.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) May 28, 2014
If and when he does, the irony will be as big and thick as a cloud of prehistoric mosquitoes.
Assuming the UFC’s emergency contingency plan comes to fruition, the organization will replace Silva—a guy who this week disgraced himself by reportedly opting out of Nevada’s licensing procedures—with Belfort, a guy who three months ago fell into disgrace by opting out of Nevada’s licensing procedures.
In addition, Belfort will be stepping onto a card headlined by Chris Weidman’s middleweight title fight against Lyoto Machida. That’s a bout that only exists because Belfort defaulted on his own scheduled meeting with Weidman at UFC 173 (see above).
Belfort’s newly minted scrap against Sonnen will be at 205 pounds, but that didn’t prevent the American Gangster from going on UFC Tonight on Wednesday to call it a No. 1 contender fight for Weidman’s 185-pound title.
Got all that? Good, because momentum shifts pretty fast around here.
If it works out, it’ll be a clear victory for Belfort’s recent campaign of silence and doubletalk. For years he deflected questions about his TRT use by waxing poetic (and occasionally indecipherably) about dinosaurs, religion and lions in the jungle. He once infamously joked that fans in Brazil should beat up a reporter who asked about testosterone and another time declared with a straight face that it was other fighters, not him, who ought to face increased drug testing.
In any other walk of life, all that nonsense probably would’ve amounted to vocational suicide. In the fight game, it’s proved to be an effective strategy for prolonging his career.
In fact, Belfort has survived a number of extinction-level events during his 18-year MMA run. For years it seemed like his opponents had him pretty well figured out, but Belfort just kept showing up, just kept fighting. He’s battled back from spirit-crushing losses, survived pit stops in Pride, Strikeforce and Affliction and outlasted the effects of a positive drug test in Nevada back in 2006.
None of it ended him, and now it appears as though his long dalliance with TRT won’t end him either.
Somehow, against all odds—against all reason, all sense—he’s still here, still relevant, and perhaps now just a strike of the commissioner’s gavel from yet another comeback.
Dinosaurs got nothing on this guy.