Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Team Jones OK with Silva backing Belfort
By Franklin McNeil
Vitor Belfort, left, can count on Anderson Silva to be in his corner when Belfort meets Jon Jones.
The relationship between Anderson Silva and Jon Jones is strong, so strong in fact that each dismisses any hint of a super-fight between them.
That relationship, however, isn’t solid enough to prevent the UFC middleweight champion from rooting against Jones on Sept. 22, when the light heavyweight titleholder defends his belt against Vitor Belfort.
Jones and Belfort will meet at UFC 152 in Toronto.
And while Silva has embraced the 25-year-old Jones as a friend, his allegiance next month will firmly be with Belfort.
Friendship is important, but it doesn’t trump being Brazilian. Silva and Belfort are natives of Brazil.
“As a Brazilian, I’ll always root for the Brazilian, even though I have a very good friendship with Jones,” Silva told the Brazil-based TV program "Bem, Amigos" on Monday. “Whenever I’m with him, I ask [Jones] to conduct his career in a different way, because he is very young and is always asking me something.
“But I’ll be rooting for Brazil, yes. May the best man win, but I’m rooting for Brazil.”
Putting friendship aside, even for one night, might strain most relationships, but not the one that exists between Silva and Jones.
Indeed, Team Jones doesn’t hold any hard feelings toward Silva. They understand his position.
“Anderson isn’t saying anything bad about Jon,” Jones’ manager Malki Kawa told ESPN.com on Tuesday. “The heritage thing is taken into account and that’s fine. I understand that.
“Anderson is a really good dude. He’s always been really good to Jon. And Jon has always had a really good relationship with him. It should not affect anything.”
Besides, rooting for your countryman is one thing, picking against a friend is another. Silva isn’t on record as picking Belfort to win.
He does, however, believe the former UFC light heavyweight champion has a better-than-expected chance of leaving the cage victorious. That’s if he plays his card right.
“It’s difficult because Jon Jones has a longer-than-normal wingspan and he’s still very young,” Silva said. “Vitor has a great chance to defeat him.
“The biggest factor for Vitor is to use his explosiveness and his jiu-jitsu, where he is very good.”
Jones is a humongous early favorite over Belfort, whom Silva defeated via first-round knockout (front kick to the jaw) on Feb. 5, 2011, at UFC 126.
Kawa likes his fighter’s chances of retaining the 205-pound belt, but isn’t willing to proclaim this bout a cakewalk.
Belfort is too skilled, too experienced and too knowledgeable to take lightly.
“It’s an interesting fight, very interesting,” Kawa said. “You’re talking about a guy [Belfort] who has power in both hands. Jon usually faces somebody who has power in one hand.
“And [Belfort’s] got great jiu-jitsu. He’s got good takedowns as well. He’s pretty well-rounded.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how Vitor does being the smaller guy in this fight. Will he be faster than Jon? Does he have the ability to close the gap?”