(Photo: I Am Second via The Christian Post)
The Ultimate Fighting Championship's Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort is a loving husband and father of three children outside the cage. Inside it, he's one of the most dangerous men in mixed martial arts (MMA).
Anthony "Rumble" Johnson found that out the hard way when he battled in Belfort's native Brazil on Saturday at "UFC 142" in Rio de Janeiro. It took Belfort just under five minutes to finish Johnson off with a chokehold for the submission victory. Cheered on by the crowd as a hometown hero, Belfort thanked Christ, his countrymen and his fans after Johnson gave up.
"Next to God and my family, my fans are one of the most important things to me," Belfort said after the match. "I had the whole country behind me and I could feel it in there tonight. Rio, America, all over – I love my fans."
Belfort's win is his first submission victory in over a decade and boosts his record to 21-9. UFC rules stipulate that fighters have up to five rounds to win via points awarded for their striking, grappling and control of their opponent. They can also earn victory by knocking their opponent out or forcing a submission.
Belfort is now the longest-serving active competitor in the UFC. As previously reported by The Christian Post, the Brazilian brawler draws strength from his relationship with Christ in each and every match he undertakes. Openly Christian, he shared his conversion testimony last year with I Am Second, a faith movement that records Christian celebrities talking about their relationship with Jesus. In Belfort's clip, the fighter discusses how God saved him from despair following the murder of his sister and a neck injury.
"My heart is so peaceful," Belfort said in the video about coming to Christ. "I can see that through the tribulation, I'm a new man, I'm a strong man and I'm mature."
Belfort's latest battle was not without its share of controversy. As reported yesterday by MMAJunkie.com, Johnson didn't make the proper weight for his 171-185 lb. middleweight division matchup with Belfort. Johnson, formerly part of the 156-170 lb. welterweight division, has struggled with cutting weight in the past. Saturday's slipup marked the third time he'd missed the maximum poundage, and the UFC announced yesterday it's firing the 10-4 fighter.
"That was one of the most unprofessional things I've ever seen,” said UFC President Dana White of Johnson's weigh-in. "He moved up to 185 lbs. so this wouldn't happen anymore, and this is the worst weight cutting disaster he's ever had. He almost ruined the co-main event here in Brazil."
"A loss is a loss," Johnson said after the match. "My legs just got really tired. I've got to figure this thing out."
If Belfort was bothered by the weight disparity with his opponent, he didn't show it after earning his latest victory. The veteran fighter said after the fight that no matter what, he always planned on working hard for a win.
"He just kept trying to take me down and I kept fighting it," Belfort said. "Make him quit. That was my goal and I did just that."