Former UFC light heavyweight champion and UFC 12 heavyweight tournament victor – Vitor ‘The Phenom’ Belfort put pen to paper on a contract with Singapore-based promotion, ONE Championship last March. A year later – the Brazilian icon has an opponent lined up for his highly-anticipated debut. Cameroonian kickboxer, Alain ‘The Panther’ Ngalani is scheduled to welcome the veteran brawler to the promotion in the coming months.
The 43-year-old striker last featured in active competition in May of 2018 at UFC 224, losing via a devastating front kick knockout against fellow former 205-pound champion, Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida. The defeat marked Vitor’s third loss in five outings, with his sole win coming in a unanimous decision triumph over former Strikeforce welterweight best, Nate Marquardt.
Speaking with Asian MMA, Belfort explained his decision to sign for ONE Championship last year, revealed his unhappiness toward the end of his Octagon stint, and shed light on his matchup with Ngalani.
“I was very unhappy, I was not motivated enough,” Belfort explained when asked how he inked a deal with ONE Championship. “I didn’t have the fire to compete in the UFC anymore. I had a couple injuries, and I was not joyful. I’m the type of athlete that I only function – I’m the type of guy that functions with two things. I gotta have joy, and I gotta have peace. I believe these two elements for whatever endeavour you’re in – I’m the type of guy that I (sic) function with these two. It’s like a Ferrari without the gas. It’s like a man without oxygen, you cannot survive. I’m very driven by these two elements and I took time and I realised what I want. I don’t want to make runs and – I prove myself, I’ve nothing more to prove. I’ve established great things for the sport.“
45-year-old knockout artist, Ngalani, made the transition to professional mixed-martial-arts back in September of 2013 – having made his name as a four-time Muay Thai world champion. The Kyokushin and Shotokan Karate black belt, and black prajied in Muay Thai – hasn’t experienced the greatest success under the ONE Championship banner, however – establishing a record of 4-5. Ngalani has been finished in each of his defeats, losing via knockout to Mauro Cerilli last March. The Yaoundé native set the record for the fastest knockout in ONE Championship history back in 2017, stopping Hideki Sekine in just eleven seconds.
“I like it – he’s (Alain Ngalani) a very tough competitor, he’s very skilled, very strong, a big man,” Belfort said. “That’s what I’m looking for – a big challenge. It’s like – It’s hard to see yourself in that situation you know? The way I describe it – I’m focusing what my skills is (sic), what my strengths is (sic), not my weaknesses, and that being said, I’m focusing on Belfort, not on him.“
Belfort made his Octagon debut all the way back in 1997, finishing both Tra Telligman and Scott Ferrozzo on his way to the UFC 12 heavyweight tournament championship. Belfort would then claim the light heavyweight crown in 2004 at UFC 46, winning via a doctor’s stoppage against Randy Couture. The veteran knockout artist spent three separate stints under the promotion’s banner, losing middleweight and light heavyweight title challenges against compatriot, Anderson Silva, and Jon Jones, respectively – in his final stint.
With eighteen career knockouts, Belfort is regarded as one of the most ferocious finishers in Octagon antiquity, with almost unrivalled killer-instinct during his prime. Belfort is the record setting knockout holder in the promotion, with twelve stoppages. He’s managed wins over the likes of Tank Abbot, Wanderlei Silva, Marvin Eastman, Matt Lindland, Rich Franklin, ‘Sexyama’, Anthony Johnson, Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson (x2).