Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Vitor Belfort shared in a new I Am Second video that it was not physical pain but emotional trauma that helped him find God.
The Brazilian-born Belfort, who is scheduled to fight current titleholder Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight Champion title on Feb. 5, recalled the year that changed his life forever in the ministry video.
The UFC champion shared that he didn't turn to God even when he suffered a neck injury at the age of 20 that threatened to end his career. But it was the pain and mental anguish of losing his sister that brought him to Christ.
In 2004, he captured the title of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. But in that same year he received devastating news that his sister was kidnapped in Brazil after their mother dropped her off at work. The family never found her body, but heard stories that more than 20 men raped her and killed her in the slums.
"We have words for if you've lost your husband, you're a widow; if you've lost your parent, you're an orphan; but if you lost your child, they don't have a name for that. That's so painful that they don't have a name for that," said Belfort.
Amid the anger and bitterness, thoughts of revenge consumed him. Seeking a way to assuage his pain, Belfort began to pray. It was through praying that he heard God's voice: "Son, it doesn't matter how you look, how you think about your life, your sister belonged to me."
It was at that moment that Belfort said he realized for the first time the reality of God.
"I think there is two ways to get to God, through love or through pain. Mine was through pain," stated Belfort.
Now, his heart is peaceful and his relationship with his family and God is good, he shared.
"I can see now that through that tribulation, I'm a new man. I'm a strong man. I've matured," Belfort said. "I'm not perfect. I still struggle with many things, but it's a process. I'm in the middle of the process and every day I try and prove myself so I can fight through that process, which never ends."
Belfort said that he is often asked how he can participate in such a violent sport and still serve God. His response is American football and hockey are also violent.
"Everybody's a fighter," he said.
Belfort has won 19 of his 27 UFC fights and has been ranked in the top 10 in the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions.
The I Am Second movement, founded by e3 Partners Ministry, seeks to connect those seeking answers to life's questions with real-life testimonies of people who have found answers in Jesus Christ. People who share their stories through the videos talk candidly about various struggles, ranging from substance abuse to selfishness, and how they found a full life in Christ.
Celebrities that have been featured in the videos include former Korn band member Brian "Head" Welch, NFL football star Bradie James, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Grammy-award winning musician Michael W. Smith, and former NFL coach Tony Dungy.
The I Am Second website launched in December 2008 and now contains more than 50 videos.
On the web: I Am Second