(Photo: I Am Second via The Christian Post)
The Ultimate Fighting Championship's Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort believes that regardless of wins or losses, he's already earned victory through Jesus Christ.
The Brazilian brawler will head home to Rio de Janeiro on Jan. 14 and face Anthony "Rumble" Johnson at "UFC 142" in a mixed martial arts (MMA) battle. Belfort said that once he goes toe-to-toe with Johnson, he'll remain confident given his faith in Christ.
"I don't look to God for my wins," he responded to a question by The Christian Post during a media teleconference today. "I look for God in my daily life. I try to live by an example. I live my life for Jesus."
As previously reported by CP last January, Belfort shared his conversion testimony with I Am Second, a faith movement that shares video testimonies of Christian celebrities online. In the video clip, Belfort talks about overcoming a neck injury and his sister's murder through his faith in Jesus.
"My heart is so peaceful," Belfort said in the video of the time after his conversion. "I can see that through the tribulation, I'm a new man, I'm a strong man and I'm mature."
Belfort said now his beliefs help him focus as a fighter. They keep him at peace during difficult practices, he said, and make him strive for self-improvement.
So far, it's a strategy that's made him a fearsome foe. The UFC lists his record as 20-9. UFC rules dictate that fighters have up to five rounds to defeat their opponent by points awarded for striking, grappling and control of their opponent. They can also win by knockout or submission.
"Everything you do involves sacrifice," Belfort said. "My work is to honor my principles, my opponent and what I believe in. I stand for it, I fight and I try to get better every day as a human being."
Opponent Johnson said Belfort isn't the only combatant working hard. The 10-3 American fighter has struggled cutting down his weight for the UFC's 156-170 lb. welterweight division. Come UFC 142, he’ll face Belfort at the 171-185 lb. level, a size he finds much more comfortable.
"I don't mind fighting in anyone's backyard, I am a fighter and the Octagon's the Octagon anywhere it is in the world," Johnson said. "You are going to see a new, more dangerous 'Rumble' at 185 lbs."
Brandon Beals, the lead pastor of Everett, Wash.'s Canyon Creek Church and a chaplain to several MMA competitors, said that Belfort's battle with Johnson was a "great style matchup, striker vs. grappler." Belfort has a background in boxing and his country's Brazilian jiu-jitsu, while Johnson claims kickboxing and amateur wrestling influences.
"I expect Vitor to win," said Beals, who blogs about the sport at FightPastor.com. "In the end, Vitor's speed and his home court advantage will likely end the fight in a second round TKO."
Belfort said he's working hard to realize that goal in Rio. Even if he doesn't, he said he's blessed to compete in a place he holds dear against an opponent he respects.
"It is a big pleasure to fight in my country and my hometown," he said. "I am so glad to be fighting on a card like this against someone who knows MMA, has good morals and a good character."