Vitor Belfort Asks For Safer Rules In MMA

Vitor Belfort is set to make his ONE Championship debut against Alain Ngalani once the promotion is able to start putting on events again, in light of the current coronavirus pandemic.

Although ONE hasn’t confirmed anything yet, Belfort has suggested that his debut will have a special ruleset, combining MMA and boxing. Now the Brazilian has suggested that the rules in MMA need improving.

Speaking to MMA Fighting, Belfort stated that fighters aren’t happy with certain aspects of sport, such as the judges.

“Every sport, every ten years, something happened that has to be changed. The rule set, the way the sport is built, the TV shows, the way they engage the fans. So I can see that MMA doesn’t change. The only thing that changes is the lights. The production is better, it’s beautiful, but the rules are the same. Fighters are not happy with the way they’re judged. Fighters aren’t happy because the people that are judging, they don’t know MMA. They don’t know how it works. It’s people that come from boxing starting to judge MMA. The list goes on and on and on…”

The veteran of 41 fights spanning 24 years, has seen few changes to the sport in terms of fighter safety and how that translates into promoting fight cards. He compared MMA to other sports, namely American football.

“But let’s talk about the safety part. The first thing that has to be changed is safety. Look at football. Football changed a lot of rules. The gear, the way they attack, the quarterback they cannot get hit like they used to before. Why? Because the first thing we think, we’re thinking safety.

“I don’t like when promoters are promoting blood, violence. I don’t like that. Because guess what? Tell me a promoter besides [ONE CEO] Chatri [Sityodtong] or maybe [Bellator president] Scott Coker, people that have fought before, they’ve really been in the ring and they’ve fought, people who have been in there and they know how it is to get bruised and get cut with 200 stitches in your face. It’s very easy to send someone to war and say, ‘Hey, go fight for me. I’ll be here home waiting for you to return.’ When you look to history, the kings before, they used to go into the front of the battles. King David, you name it. Now, presidents, they say let’s go fight, but it’s easy to pick up a fight when you don’t have to go and fight yourself.”

Fighting professionally since he was aged 19, Belfort has seen many changes to the rules in MMA, from the early bare knuckle Vale Tudo days in Brazil to the spotlight of ONE Championship in Asia. The 43 year old feels fans are growing tired of the sport and are urging for bigger improvements to MMA.

“It’s just like anything else,” Belfort said. “Let’s say when you first date your girlfriend, that’s a kind of love. Then you’re waiting to get married, and then you get married, and then all of a sudden it starts changing. ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know that.’ And then the love starts facing some challenges. You go pee, you put the thing up and you forget to put it down, and then your wife is like, ‘Ah!’

“So now you used to be a prince, now you start becoming like a frog. How you develop that love is through a process of reinventing yourself.”

Belfort is a vocal critic of the controversial oblique kick technique, employed famously by Jon Jones. The kick has been credited with severely damaging knees and shortening fighters’ careers and Vitor believes that banning that technique is a step forward for a safer sport.

“The most important thing is, how about the injuries of the ligaments?” Belfort asked. “The stomp kicks (oblique kicks). What that kick does? That kick is to win a fight or is it to injure your opponent? I’m looking for the safety of my athlete. He can have longevity not when he’s fighting, but when he’s finished fighting, he can walk good, he can have a healthy life. The object of the fight is for the other guy to win either by submission or by knockout or by an aggressive attack, good offence. Everybody loves football because they’re looking for offence, but also a good defence that is becoming offence as well. It’s always attack, defence, attack, defence. Every sport is like that.

“That being said, a lot of rules, like when you get a cut, you can fight even if there’s a pool of blood. How good is that and how bad is that? We don’t have insurance companies or banks sponsoring our sport because we are considered a bloodsport. We are the only sport considered a bloodsport. Why are we still going in that direction? Why are we [not addressing] things that can really cause [injuries]? You saw Jon Jones fighting Thiago ‘Marreta’ [Santos]. Thiago ‘Marreta’s’ been out of fighting because the [oblique] kicks that Jon Jones was doing, they just tore all the ligaments of his knees. Of course, he’ll never be the same. Of course, he can go back, but he will never be the same. So what’s the purpose of that kick? To cause a win, to cause a knockout, or to cause injury?”

For Belfort, it’s simple: if we don’t allow gauging of the eyes or fishhooking in MMA, we shouldn’t allow oblique kicks.

“That kick takes you out six months,” Belfort continued. “Maybe makes you walk like never before. In martial arts, we teach you to put your thumb in somebody’s eyes. We’re gonna allow that to happen? No, we’re not gonna allow that to happen. We can do fishhooks. So you see, we cannot bring some martial arts inside the sport because now you’re causing damage that can last forever.

“That damage in Thiago Santos is forever. He doesn’t have the ligaments, now it’s forever. We have to avoid damage that is forever in ligaments and things.”

Belfort also criticised Anthony Smith’s cornermen and the officiating referee for allowing him to take unnecessary damage during his most recent fight against Glover Teixeira at UFC Jacksonville.

“What’s the reason?” Belfort said. “What did they do with Anthony Smith? They just caused him to be so beat up. He’s not gonna win the fight. It’s okay to lose. You’ve got to have common sense. So I’m not looking more at the aspect of something that’s more important: The safety of the athlete, not just in his career, but after when he’s retired and when he still has a life.

“A lot of things have to be revisited and changed, in my opinion. I don’t have the power, but I’ve been in this sport before Dana White came in. Before Lorenzo Fertitta bought it. I’ve been fighting since when I was 18 years old [at UFC 12], that’s how long I’ve been involved and still competing. I’m not the same, so things have to be in place that we can be moving forward to a healthy environment, better, people can bring their family. They say, ‘Wow, that’s cool, such a violent sport, but safety number one.’”

Despite all his misgivings with the UFC, Vitor Belfort sees hope for the future with ONE Championship and their open-minded approach to MMA. ‘The Phenom’ sees ONE as the place where these rule changes can be implemented.

“Before I signed with ONE, I really saw that ONE is a company that’s willing to take this information from someone who paved the way and learned,” Belfort said. “I brought something to them, they’re willing to do it. Merging two sports in one, boxing and MMA, merging ONE rules, they’re willing to bring muay Thai with little gloves, submission matches in the same night.

“You’re going to see a fight, you can watch an MMA fight, you can watch a submission fight, you can watch many styles of martial arts. So now you have customers, they’re like, ‘I have something [in ONE] that I cannot have anywhere.’ I think we’re gonna see a lot of change.”

What are your thoughts on Vitor Belfort’s comments?

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