UFC 103 Notes: Belfort Moves to Forefront of Middleweight Title Picture

Vitor Belfort. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

A win over Rich Franklin was expected to make Vitor Belfort an instant contender for Anderson Silva’s UFC middleweight title. But according to UFC President Dana White, Belfort may have positioned himself as the leading candidate for Silva’s next title defense, even before Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt.

“You know, I think he might be ready now,” White said at last night’s UFC 103 post-fight press conference.

Henderson and Marquardt have already started campaigning for another shot at Silva. The problem for both fighters is that they have already fallen to “The Spider” in the past. Silva submitted Henderson with a rear-naked choke at UFC 82 in March 2008 while Marquardt was stopped via a brutal striking display over two years ago at UFC 73.

That doesn’t mean the duo haven’t improved since. Henderson is riding a three-fight win streak, which includes a unanimous decision over Franklin and a highlight-reel knockout of Michael Bisping while Marquardt has knocked off Demian Maia, Martin Kampmann, and Wilson Gouveia in his most recent outings.

Still, White isn’t quite sold on the fact that the two may have earned a second crack at Silva just yet.

“The way they lost to Anderson… I think Henderson and Marquardt should fight each other,” White said. “The winner becomes the next contender and I think Vitor is ready now, so we’ll see what happens.”

A stumbling block in White’s plans involves Henderson recently becoming a free agent as his win over Bisping at UFC 100 completed the final fight on his contract. Henderson has stated that he wouldn’t like to fight anywhere else, but is holding out for a better deal that he feels he deserves.

“Dan and I are friends. We’ve been friends for a long time,” White said of Henderson. “We’ll get together this week and figure it out.”

GSP Awaits a Clear-Cut Contender

With Georges St. Pierre sidelined until next year while rehabbing an injured groin, the UFC will have ample time to create a deserving contender for the Canadian’s UFC welterweight title. However after Mike Swick was forced to bow out of his scheduled UFC 103 bout against Martin Kampmann because of a concussion, the organization now finds itself without a legitimate foe for St. Pierre’s return bout.

What is certain is that the UFC won’t consider having St. Pierre move up to the middleweight division like his counterpart Anderson Silva while the welterweight title picture is figured out. “Rush” will remain at 170 lbs.

“The good thing about this is that we have time,” White said of the welterweight title situation. “St. Pierre is out until February. He won’t be able to compete until then. I like Georges at 170 and I don’t see any reason to move him up to 185 right now. Georges hasn’t asked to either.”

Kampmann quickly bowed out of the running with a devastating loss to UFC newcomer Paul Daley last night. Even though the winner of Swick-Kampmann was to receive the next shot at St. Pierre, White said that Daley could actually now meet Swick for the same opportunity in the near future.

“Daley vs Swick could be next,” White said. “Daley was great. He took the fight on short notice against a tough guy. I thought the stoppage was justified. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt when they are already out on their feet. With that said, I love when guys are willing to take fights on short notice. It goes a long way in my eyes.”

Despite dropping two out of his last four bouts, White feels that Josh Koscheck isn’t “that far away” from a shot at St. Pierre either. It’s a feeling that Koscheck shares as well.

“I think he should fight me next but that’s up to the UFC,” Koscheck said of St. Pierre. “I think Matt Hughes would be a great fight and I think Georges St. Pierre would be an even better one. I’ve already told Dana that if anyone backs out, I’ll fight next month in Los Angeles and in November too if they need me. I’d like to fight every month if I could.”

Additional Notes

Tyson Griffin on a potential meeting with Gray Maynard: “It’s kind of an unwritten rule that teammates will fight each other for a title. I’ll train with Gray and we’ll help each other prepare and help each other to win together. The lightweight division is stacked and there are plenty of guys for us to fight other than each other right now though.”

White on the “Rampage” Jackson situation: “It’s true that we’ve talked. We’ve made up a little. He wants to take the Rashad [Evans] fight. He’s in Vancouver now filming the movie so it is what it is. There’s certain dates screwing this whole thing up so he won’t be available to fight until after February. You know, I think Chuck [Liddell] on “Dancing With the Stars” is great. He’s in great shape because of it. But, Rampage is still an active fighter. He made a commitment to fight after “TUF 10”. He could have done whatever he wanted to afterwards. He could have made seven movies if he wanted, but he was obligated to fight Rashad. Now, Rashad is on the sidelines and it screwed a lot of things up.”

Belfort on his past with the UFC: “I made mistakes in the past. After I lost to Tito [Ortiz] at UFC 51, Dana came to my manager and said that he wanted to negotiate a new contract. My manager told Dana to email him the contract. The guy was crazy and I’m not going to have that happen again.”

White on merging the UFC and WEC: “We’ve talked about doing a lot of things with the WEC but right now we just went into a new deal with Versus. Still, we’re going to do whatever is good for the business, but right now we have Versus and the WEC goes on.”

White on returning to Dallas: “This place was great. It was packed and there was tons of energy. We had a big gate. We’ll be back. We’re planning on going all over Texas, not just Dallas.”

White on Mirko Cro Cop: “He refused to go to the hospital and said he was fine. I made him go to the hospital, because if he’s going to fly 20 hours on a plane, I want to know that he’s okay. With him, I think when you start to get older, you see things you want to do but you can’t pull the trigger. That’s what might be with him right now.”


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