Suchat Pederson / AP
Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011 | 1:20 a.m.
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PHILADELPHIA — The one criticism surrounding Vitor Belfort’s storied mixed martial arts career is his inconsistency.
Detractors say they never know which version of the 34-year-old Belfort will show up at any given event. If that’s true, then an opponent should want to avoid awakening the stashed-away rage inside Belfort at all costs.
Yoshihiro Akiyama failed miserably in that regard Saturday night in the UFC 133 co-main event. Akiyama (13-4 MMA, 1-3 UFC) ensured Belfort (20-9-1 MMA, 9-5 UFC) was at his best by making one ill-fated move at the beginning of their middleweight bout.
Akiyama attempted to throw the same front kick Anderson Silva used six months ago to knock out Belfort within the opening minute of the fight. UFC President Dana White immediately noticed Belfort’s reaction.
“He looked pretty pissed when Akiyama threw that kick at him,” White said.
Akiyama was on the ground of the octagon unconscious less than a minute later. An enraged Belfort dropped him with a straight right followed by a looping hook and threw a few ground-and-pound strikes before the referee jumped in to end the contest at 1:54 of the first round.
As much as Belfort insisted he had put the UFC 126 championship loss to Silva behind him, it was still somewhere on his mind. The setback became one of the first things he mentioned after knocking out Akiyama.
“The last fight with Anderson — If he wouldn’t have thrown that kick, this would have happened to him,” Belfort said. “He knows that in his mind.”
Belfort went into campaign mode right after his victory at the Wells Fargo Center. He desires the winner of the UFC 134 middleweight championship main event between Silva and Yushin Okami and finds no reason to be shy about it.
“I know what I want,” Belfort said. “UFC knows what I want. I’ve paid. I’ve done the sacrifice. I’m here to make a statement.”
But the fact remains that Silva finished Belfort emphatically in the first round of their last meeting. It wasn’t the type of fight that generally requires a rematch this soon.
Although White didn’t officially shoot down any notions of the fight happening when asked what’s next for Belfort, his response made it seem unlikely.
“He went in there and finished the fight real quick, didn’t take any real damage,” White said. “I’m sure he’s ready to roll again, so we’ve got to figure it out and see what’s up.”
Belfort wouldn’t mind a different opponent, because he says he’s faster and stronger than ever before and aching to fight as much as possible.
According to Belfort, the UFC can line up whomever it wants against him. But none of them are going to make it 15 minutes with him.
“When someone in this weight division trades hands with me, get ready,” Belfort said. “Next time, bring pillows for people.”
Belfort credits a portion of the way he feels to his permanent relocation to Las Vegas. Although Belfort has trained locally for years, he moved his family and several teammates from Brazil to Las Vegas within the last year.
Their presence has made him the hungriest he’s been to strap a UFC belt across his waist since he won a heavyweight tournament in the promotion at the age of 19.
“That’s my future,” Belfort said. “I’m on a roll, and I’m not going to stop. No one is going to stop me.”