- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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Generally speaking, if you feel good, you fight good -- and Vitor Belfort says he’s never felt this good in his entire life.
The UFC veteran will enter the Octagon for the 16th time of his career on Jan. 19 when he faces Michael Bisping at a UFC on FX event in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Belfort, 35, was last seen in a submission loss to Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title in September. This month, he’s back to the 185-pound weight class, a transition that’s been made easy, he says, by a clean diet and a clean mentality on life.
Belfort (21-10) shares a few thoughts with ESPN.com as he heads into yet another big fight.
ESPN: Give us your thoughts on Michael Bisping as an opponent and what kind of fight you’re expecting.
Belfort: I’m looking for a great matchup, first of all. I think Michael is a great warrior. He’s one of the fighters who never picks his opponent. He’ll fight anyone they put in front of him. He’s very honorable to accept this challenge.
ESPN: How are you still evolving at this point in your career?
Belfort: It took me a long time to realize that life is too short. If you look at the past, all these men who accomplished many great things -- they leave behind the most important thing, which is to just enjoy the day. This is something I’m very honored to do. I do it with pleasure. I do it with joy. I just do my best so there is no pressure.
ESPN: Does that mean that doing your best and not necessarily winning the fight has become the most important thing to you?
Belfort: The most important thing for me is today. The day of the fight, the most important thing is the fight. I have a lot of important things to do. One of the important things is winning. That’s my job. That’s my motivation. I wasn’t born to lose, so I win. I’m not just going there to collect a paycheck. This is cheating. This is lying. Only reason I’m still doing this is because I’m motivated to win. I’m motivated to step in there and make the crowd know, "This man stepped here to win."
ESPN: Dana White has said if Michael Bisping wins this fight, he’s next to challenge Anderson Silva. He hasn’t said the same for you, but do you think an impressive performance this month might make him change his mind?
Belfort: I don’t want to even talk about that. It’s none of my business. Pick fights, decide fights -- the UFC has a puzzle. I’m part of that puzzle and I’m doing my part. I’m an employee. My job is to fight and be honorable to the organization. I’m very honorable. I help the organization when they need me. If I don’t trust my promoter, why am I fighting for him? Dana knows what he’s doing, so I’m happy. I enjoy. Nothing can get me depressed, you understand? Nothing. My joy comes from God.
ESPN: You’ve said you feel the best you’ve ever felt. You’ve been fighting professionally since 1996. Where in your career do you think you’re at?
Belfort: In my mind, when I’m 40, we’ll see how my body feels. That’s five good years in front of me. I’m open. I’m just doing my best. My wife will tell me the truth. She’ll be the first one. I believe even Lorenzo [Fertitta] will tell me to stop. The UFC is so nice to its fighters. They never abuse fighters. They could have made money off fighters who have retired, so I think I’m in good hands.
ESPN: Some fighters in their 30s have been diagnosed with low testosterone levels and received exemptions to use testosterone replacement therapy [TRT]. Have you ever applied for TRT or would you consider it?
Belfort: If a question is private, I have the choice to answer or not. If I make it public, it’s not private anymore. If I want to say something private I will say it, but I keep to myself and I respect the laws of the sport. Whatever the organization, whatever the law -- they know what to do. This is too controversial, why am I going to say something that doesn’t accomplish anything? If it’s legal, they know what to do. If it’s legal, there’s nothing to say about it. It’s legal.
ESPN: As you mention, TRT is legal for fighters who qualify for it. Do you believe it’s getting a bad image in the sport? Fans are too quick to judge fighters who use it?
Belfort: It’s hard. Like, you’re either a Republican or Democrat. Who is right? I think it’s this: The truth is always in the middle. Of course, some things are non-negotiable. I think in life, you just need to find a balance. That’s the problem with the rule, is that everyone is so radical. That’s my opinion. I’m very faithful to the things I believe in and I’m working on myself. I don’t like to judge. When you judge people, it sounds like you are God. We live in a freedom country. It is what it is.
21dAndrew R. Davis