Vitor Belfort says he really is retiring after UFC Fight Night 124, ready for 'second journey'

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ST. LOUIS – As he prepares to make his final walk to the cage, Vitor Belfort is both happy with what he’s accomplished and excited for what’s to come.

Belfort (26-13 MMA, 15-9 UFC) meets Uriah Hall (13-8 MMA, 6-6 UFC) on Sunday at UFC Fight Night 124. And, after telling the “UFC Unfiltered” podcast that the 185-pound co-headliner will be the last fight of his more than two-decade-long career, “The Phenom” sat down with MMAjunkie to discuss his decision.

First off, he confirmed that, win or lose, the decision is final.

“That’s the last one,” Belfort said with a smile. “People didn’t expect that, no? People are like, ‘Oh my God.’”

Well, it wasn’t that unexpected either. While Belfort had talked about fighting five more times after a home soil win over Nate Marquardt in July, the idea of retirement had been tossed around before. It was also a known fact that Sunday’s FS1-televised fight at Scottstrade Centre in St. Louis was the last in Belfort’s current UFC contract.

Now, though, it’s final: “The Phenom” is hanging up his gloves, and Belfort is doing it on his own terms, too: With three months to go before Belfort’s 41st birthday, his original plan was to fight until he was 40.

Will he miss any of it? Well, “we miss a lot of stuff” in life. But, all in all, Belfort says he’s prepared to move on.

“My body needs that,” Belfort said. “I’m going to that second journey. Retirement, for me, is different than how people see it. I’m happy. I’m content. I’m content with my life. I don’t depend on the lights. I don’t live out of that. I don’t live out of, ‘Man, I need that to feed my ego.’ That’s not what feeds my ego.

“What feeds my ego is when I see someone changing their life, someone become a better person. This is what feeds my ego, to tell the truth. I’m going to miss a lot of stuff. But it’s part of life. You’ve got to know the time to start and have the time to end. So, here it is.”

What was somewhat surprising, though, was the choice of stage for Belfort’s final foray. Considering a former UFC champion who’s headlined big pay-per-view cards and walked out to the crazed chants of packed Brazilian arenas, an FS1-televised bout in St-Louis might not seem like the most obvious choice.

But Belfort? He thinks that’s just wonderful.

“When the octagon door closes, it’s the same size,” Belfort told Brazilian reporters during an online scrum Thursday. “For me, it’s a joy. I don’t like goodbyes, throwing parties. A goodbye fight, this isn’t soccer, to have goodbye games. Party, barbecue, music. This is a fight. You can’t be relaxed, enjoy it, have a party. It’s very serious.

“For me, it’s very nice to be here. It’s a very welcoming card, a great card. Full of champions. Full of great guys, the future of the sport. I’m satisfied. I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished and to be able to finish it like this. I’m feeling special.”

After achieving his goals in the cage, Belfort is now geared toward helping create positive impact in the lives of others, starting with the a gym business that he’s been expanding next to his wife and partner. That is the current focus of the “second journey” Belfort had already talked to MMAjunkie about.

But he’s not planning on wandering too far off the octagon. Belfort can’t control how people are going to look back on him as a fighter, but he does want to be remembered as someone who wasn’t afraid to take risks. And he’s hoping his mentality can inspire others – including the sport of MMA.

“We can go to a place – imagine MMA in the Olympics,” Belfort said. “Just imagine. It’s impossible for you to imagine, because MMA can take every sport. It can be the biggest sport in the Olympics.

“But how are we going to get there? What do we need to do? What do we need to sacrifice? And sometimes people are afraid to sacrifice, to change some stuff, create some stuff. Who knows, the Legend League. So many things out there that are going to take guts.”

That, Belfort says, starts with investing in safety. Even the protective gear used in training, Belfort says, is borrowed from other martial arts. Even the rules, the ex-champ believes, can be reviewed in order to make the sport less bloody and more like high-end entertainment.

“I say the most important thing of the sport, people don’t realize, it’s the safety,” Belfort said. “The safety is not there yet. People are like, ‘I love wars.’ War is great, but you don’t want your son to go to war. You want other people to fight the war. We need the sport. MMA is already a sport, with skills. We need more skills. Less damage.”

When it comes to his own immediate future vs. Hall, Belfort takes a pass on predictions.

“I want to fight my best fight,” Belfort said. “I want to have my best night. Of course I want to win, but I don’t have control over that. I wish I had an undefeated career. I wish I never fell. I wish every day was perfect.

“I wish today wasn’t raining, but it’s raining. So, things you cannot control, it’s a waste of time thinking about. What I can control, I want to go out there and do my best on Sunday night.”

Belfort is more adamant when it comes to his distant future. While he will “stay prepared” because that’s part of his lifestyle and what he loves to do, Belfort says it would take a particularly appealing opportunity to make him walk back on retirement.

“A lot of money,” Belfort said. “A lot of money. Millions.”

How many millions, you ask?

“I’ll say 10 million, up,” Belfort said with a smirk. “We’ll start the conversation there. That’s the amount, and we can start talking.”

Ultimately, though, Belfort says it’s not about the money.

“What I have in my hands, I see a big, big opportunity to make other people wealthy,” Belfort said. “And healthy. That, for me, is what (fulfills me) more than money.”

Do you want more revelations from Belfort’s career? You’ll have to buy the book he’s going to print in the future. But the retrospective he shared with MMAjunkie in the video above is certainly a good start.

For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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