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Vitor Belfort finds himself in precarious position in UFC title picture

Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold likely awaits Belfort

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Vitor Belfort, from Brazil, celebrates after defeating Michael Bisping, from Britain during their middleweight mixed martial arts bout at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013.

Vitor Belfort’s impassioned callout of Jon Jones last month caught everyone around mixed martial arts off-guard.

Jones, who beat Belfort with a fourth-round TKO last September, laughed off the suggestion. Chael Sonnen, who’s scheduled to meet Jones at UFC 159, misinterpreted Belfort’s speech and thought the Brazilian wanted to fight him.

Even Belfort’s own training partner, Rashad Evans, didn’t know what to make of it.

“I have no idea,” Evans said. “That took me by surprise.”

Belfort, who relocated from Las Vegas to Miami last year, clarified his remarks while back in town for UFC 156 last weekend. He also explained why he asked for Jones over Anderson Silva, who at the time was without an opponent at middleweight, where Belfort has gone 6-1 with the only loss coming to “The Spider.”

Belfort said it was simple and stemmed from a message the UFC relayed to him before he knocked out Michael Bisping at UFC on FX 7.

“They already told me to fight Anderson, I need to knock off three, four guys,” Belfort said. “They already told me, so what do I do? I’m not bossy. I accept the rules.”

Unfortunately for Belfort, the UFC has no plans to replace Sonnen with him. Belfort won’t scoot past the long line of light heavyweight contenders — including Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida, Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira — either.

And, as promised, he’s not getting another crack at Silva yet. Incoming Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold appears next for Belfort, according to UFC President Dana White.

The bout could happen as soon as May even though it doesn’t seem to particularly interest Belfort.

“I don’t pick fights, I accept fights, but I need to know where this fight is going to take me,” Belfort said.

White didn’t reveal the stakes, if any exist, for a potential Belfort vs. Rockhold matchup. It could conceivably make a worthwhile title eliminator with Silva expected to fight Chris Weidman later this year.

In the first UFC rankings, Belfort was second behind only Weidman. Rockhold rated seventh, but would rocket with his first win in the UFC — especially if it came against Belfort.

“In this weight division, I’ve been through everyone,” Belfort said. “I’ve beaten the best, and I just made a statement two weeks ago.”

Belfort’s win created a mess as the UFC was poised to award Bisping a title shot against Silva with a victory over Belfort. But Bisping couldn’t negotiate Belfort’s power.

“I beat the second guy,” Belfort said. “I earned that place, but that’s how I think. That’s now how it is.”

Belfort’s best bet is to keep winning. If he strings enough victories together, there’s no way the UFC can ignore his merits as a top contender forever.

Belfort sounded mildly offended by the way the UFC billed his fight as a chance for Bisping to reach Silva. If Rockhold gets the same treatment, Belfort warns to watch out.

“I’m not a stepping stone for anyone,” Belfort said. “I will crush people.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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