Born and raised in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Belfort began training in boxing at the age of 12 under Claudio Coelho. Belfort later studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu with Carlson Gracie, who gave him his black belt. Gracie scouted Belfort at the Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championships, where he won the Absolute and Heavyweight titles for blue belts under age 18. Belfort, 17 at the time, was invited to compete at Gracie's gym where he trained with the likes of Murilo Bustamante, Ricardo Loborio, Ricardo De La Riva, Mario Sperry, and Wallid Ismail.
At the age of 19, Belfort came to the United States to compete. In his first sanctioned mixed martial arts match, an event called Superbrawl in Hawaii, his opponent was Jon Hess, whom the young Brazilian defeated in 12 seconds by knockout, despite Hess having a seven-inch height advantage and an over 100-pound weight advantage over Belfort.
Soon after, he moved on to compete in the UFC, where he was given the nickname The Phenom. He beat two fighters in his debut event in the UFC, winning the UFC 12 Heavyweight Tournament. At age 19, Belfort became the youngest fighter to ever score a victory inside the octagon. Belfort's next match saw him score a technical knockout (TKO) against the UFC 6 runner-up Tank Abbott in a non-tournament fight, knocking Abbott down and finishing him with a ground and pound attack.
In 1997 Belfort fought against American Greco-Roman wrestler Randy Couture, the first of three fights they would have. Belfort was upset by TKO 8:16 into the match, his boxing skills negated by Couture's clinch fighting.
After this defeat, he would fight twice more in the UFC. The first of these fights was against a training partner of his, Joe Charles, whom he defeated quickly via armbar without throwing a single punch. A year later, Belfort faced rising Brazilian star and future PRIDE Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva. Catching Silva early with a left cross, Belfort chased him across the cage with a flurry of punches, knocking Silva out by TKO in just 44 seconds.
Vítor then moved on to fight in Japan's PRIDE Fighting Championships. His first opponent was Kazushi Sakuraba in 1999. Vítor controlled the first minutes of the fight before breaking his hand, the remainder of the fight was spent on his back being stomped and kicked by Sakuraba. Following the fight he stopped training with Carlson Gracie and started to train with Brazilian Top Team.
He fought in PRIDE against Alistair Overeem, Gilbert Yvel, Daijiro Matsui, Bobby Southworth, and Heath Herring. For these matches Belfort used his stand-up striking skills less and instead controlled the fights and won by ground-and-pound tactics, with the exception of his fight with Southworth, which he won via rear-naked choke in the first round. However, in the opening round of the 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix he faced Alistair Overeem losing via first-round guillotine choke.
Returning to the UFC, Belfort was scheduled to fight Tito Ortiz in the main event of UFC's first Las Vegas show at UFC 33. However, he sustained an injury prior to the event, and the bout was cancelled. Belfort eventually returned and fought Chuck Liddell (losing via decision), then Marvin Eastman (winning via TKO and opening a severe cut on Eastman's eyebrow with a knee strike).
His next fight was on January 31, 2004, a rematch with Randy Couture for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. Despite agonizing over his sister Priscila Belfort, who disappeared on January 9, Vitor won the fight in 49 seconds after a seam from his glove cut Couture's eye leaving Couture with a corneal abrasion, prompting a referee stoppage. A third match between the two took place on August 21, 2004. Couture won via doctor stoppage after the third round, recapturing the title.
His next fight in the UFC was against Tito Ortiz on February 5, 2005. The fight was Ortiz's last fight on his contract. Belfort had early success in the first round, landing his best punches during the stand up but was taken down late in the round and took some of Ortiz's best elbows. Belfort again had a strong start in the second but was taken down a second time and had wear due to some elbows late in the round. Both fighters were exhausted by round 3, with Belfort too tired to land a single punch he was taken down a third time and held down for the entire round. Ortiz again landed some elbows and dominated Vitor. After a hard fought battle, Belfort lost a close split decision, where some people, including then UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Chuck Liddell believed he deserved to win the first as well as the second round, due to his octagon control and breaking Ortiz's nose with punches, early in round 1.
Vitor then fought in Strikeforce for a rematch with Alistair Overeem, and this time Belfort was defeated via unanimous decision.
At Pride 32: The Real Deal on October 21, 2006, Belfort lost a unanimous decision to Pride Welterweight Champion Dan Henderson. After the fight, Belfort tested positive for an illegal substance, 4-hydroxytestosterone. In his defense, Belfort argued that he purchased an over the counter supplement which contained 4-Hydroxytestosterone. Belfort also explained that he may have received 4-Hydroxytestosterone as the result of rehabilitative injections given to him by Brazilian endocrinologist Dr. Rodrigo M. Greco after his surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee in the summer of 2006. The Nevada State Athletic Commission eventually received a statement from Dr. Greco stating that he did give Belfort post-surgical injections containing testosterone. While conceding that Belfort may have not known about the testosterone, the NSAC explained that even if Belfort was given injections by a medical practictioner who did not inform him that they contained anabolic steroids, it would still be a violation of the banned substances policy. On December 21, 2006 he was suspended for nine months from the date of the hearing and fined $10,000.
Vítor Belfort defeated Ivan Serati by TKO at Cage Rage 21 in England on April 21, 2007. He defeated James Zikic on September 22, 2007 at Cage Rage 23 to claim the Cage Rage light heavyweight title in a unanimous decision. He entered the fight with a broken hand and during the fight threw minimal punches and utilized takedowns and ground and pound techniques.
Vítor spent a brief time training for his Affliction fight against Terry Martin with Chute Boxe in Brazil. However, he completed his preparation for the fight at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. Randy Couture and Shawn Tompkins helped train him for the fight in which he got a second-round KO by landing a flying knee and following up with an uppercut straight-left combination.
After the fight, Couture said Belfort was thinking about moving to Las Vegas and training at Xtreme Couture full-time.
Belfort's next fight was slated to be against Matt Lindland at the second Affliction event, however, he was forced to pull out due to a hand-injury sustained during the Terry Martin fight. The second Affliction event was postponed anyway and rescheduled for January 2009, enabling Vítor to fight on that card.
After rumours of a possible bout with reigning Dream Middleweight Grand Prix winner Gegard Mousasi were circulating, it was announced that Vítor would finally fight Lindland at Affliction: Day of Reckoning. Lindland was originally slated to fight Renato Sobral at a catchweight, but promoters of Affliction preferred the Belfort vs. Lindland fight at Middleweight. The fight ended in a KO within thirty-seven seconds as Belfort delivered a strong left to Lindland's jaw and followed up with four unanswered power shots as he hit the ground.
During a press conference, Dana White announced that the UFC had re-signed Belfort to a contract. His first match was against Rich Franklin at a catchweight of 195 lbs, headlining UFC 103, which he won by knockout three minutes and two seconds into the first round.
Belfort was expected to face Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight Championship on January 2, 2010 at UFC 108. However, Silva's manager, Ed Soares, announced that Silva would not be fully recovered from his injury by that time, so the fight was postponed. Belfort was again slated to fight Silva on February 6, 2010 at UFC 109 and April 10, 2010 at UFC 112, respectively, but both fights were canceled because of a surgery for Silva and an injury suffered by Belfort. Belfort was scheduled to fight Yushin Okami at UFC 122. However, Dana White tweeted Belfort would instead challenge Silva at UFC 126 for the belt. Belfort lost by knockout after getting hit with a front kick to the face and taking two punches after falling to the mat.
Belfort made his return at UFC 133 against Yoshihiro Akiyama. Belfort initially thought the UFC would try to put him on the card at UFC 134 in Brazil, but the fight with Akiyama came together to help bolster the card in Philadelphia. Belfort contracted Hepatitis A in April, shortly after accepting the fight, but his representative, Pedro Lima, said that it would not jeopardize the bout with Akiyama. Belfort was successful in his return, winning the fight by knockout one minute and fifty-two seconds into the first round.
Belfort was briefly linked to a matchup with Cung Le, expected to take place on November 19, 2011 at UFC 139. However, Belfort was removed from the bout due to injury and replaced by Wanderlei Silva.
Belfort faced Anthony Johnson on January 14, 2012 at UFC 142. During the UFC 142 weigh ins, Johnson came in 11 pounds over the 186 lb weight allowance and was fined 20 percent of his earnings. Belfort requested that Johnson not weigh more than 205 lbs the day of the fight. The UFC had Johnson weigh in a second time. Johnson officially weighed in at 204 lbs on fight day, and the fight with Belfort proceeded as scheduled, with Belfort winning via rear naked choke in the first round, his first submission win in over a decade.
Belfort was selected to coach The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil against Wanderlei Silva. The rematch between Belfort and Silva was expected to take place on June 23, 2012 at UFC 147. However, on May 27, 2012, Belfort was forced to pull out of the bout, citing a broken hand in training, and replaced by Rich Franklin.
In a recent interview, Belfort expressed disinterest in actually fighting Wanderlei Silva. He told Fighters Only magazine, "I guess Wanderlei will be able to fight in October but I only want that my next bout that accredits me to dispute the belt. I don’t know, maybe Michael Bisping. I was only defeated once recently, by Anderson Silva, and all my wins were very convincing." He further stated, "I don’t know how long I will stay in this division. I wanted to do more two or three fights. If my body will no longer permit this big weight cutting, I will go up (to 205 lbs). I am not afraid of Jon Jones or somebody else... It's not for me to choose my opponents."
Belfort was expected to face Alan Belcher on October 13, 2012 at UFC 153. However, he replaced Lyoto Machida in a bout against Jon Jones at UFC 152 for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship after Machida rejected the offer due to lack of time to train before the fight. Despite almost submitting Jones via armbar in the first round, he was dominated during the remainder of the bout and submitted via keylock at 0:54 of the fourth round.
Belfort faced Michael Bisping on January 19, 2013 at UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Bisping, winning via TKO due to a head kick and punches at 1:27 of the second round.
Belfort faced the final Strikeforce Middleweight Champion and promotional newcomer Luke Rockhold on May 18, 2013 at UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Rockhold. He won the fight via knockout in the first round.
Belfort faced Dan Henderson at light heavyweight in a rematch on November 9, 2013 at UFC Fight Night 32. Belfort defeated Henderson via first-round knockout to become the first person to defeat Henderson via strikes. The win also earned Belfort his fifth Knockout of the Night bonus award.
Belfort was expected to face UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman at UFC 173. However, Belfort chose to withdraw from the fight following the Nevada State Athletic Commission's ban on exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy and was replaced by Lyoto Machida. Subsequently, Belfort revealed that he had failed a random drug test in February, due to elevated levels of testosterone.
Belfort was expected to face Chael Sonnen on July 5, 2014 at UFC 175 as a replacement for Wanderlei Silva. However, Sonnen failed a random drug test and was removed from the bout. The following day it was announced by MMA writer Kevin Iole that Belfort had also been removed from the card due to the inability of the UFC finding him a new opponent.
Belfort was expected to face Weidman on December 6, 2014 at UFC 181. However, on September 22, it was announced that Weidman had suffered a broken hand and the bout was again rescheduled to take place on February 28, 2015 at UFC 184. In turn, on January 30, 2015, the UFC announced that Weidman had pulled out of the bout again, citing an injury he sustained in training. The bout with Weidman eventually took place on May 23, 2015 at UFC 187. Belfort found initial success with a flurry of punches early in the opening of the first round, but Weidman survived them, secured a takedown, achieved the mount position and defeated Belfort via TKO due to punches.
Belfort faced Dan Henderson in a rubber match at UFC Fight Night 77 on November 7, 2015. He again defeated Henderson via a combination of head kick and punches. The win also earned Belfort his first Performance of the Night bonus award.
Belfort next faced Ronaldo Souza on May 14, 2016 at UFC 198 He lost the fight via TKO in the first round.
A long discussed fight with Gegard Mousasi took place on October 8, 2016 at UFC 204. Belfort lost the fight via TKO in the second round.
Belfort faced Kelvin Gastelum on March 11, 2017 at UFC Fight Night 106. He lost the fight via a combination of punches in the first round. However, Gastelum subsequently tested positive for marijuana and the result was overturned to a No Contest.
Belfort faced Nate Marquardt on June 3, 2017 at UFC 212. He won the fight by unanimous decision, his first decision win in nearly a decade.Ultimate Fighting Championship
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
UFC 12 Heavyweight Tournament Winner
Knockout of the Night (5 times)
Performance of the Night (2 times)
Most knockouts in UFC history (12)
Most first round finishes in UFC history (13)
Cage Rage Championships
Cage Rage World Light Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
World MMA Awards
2013 Knockout of the Year vs. Luke Rockhold
2013 All-Violence First Team
ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship
ADCC 2001 Absolute division – Bronze medal
In 2001 Belfort participated in the ADCC championships, in their Absolute division. Prior to that competition he had already faced Hiroki Fukuda, winning by submission, and Mark Robinson, losing by points. In the championship Belfort faced Genki Sudo, winning by points, Ricco Rodriguez, winning by points, Ricardo Arona in the semi-final, losing by points and finally in the 3rd place fight defeating Ricardo Almeida by advantage after Almeida was unable to continue due to an injury to his knee, winning the bronze medal.
On April 11, 2006 Vitor fought in his professional boxing debut against Josemario Neves. Belfort won by TKO within the first minute after knocking his opponent down three times. This has been his sole venture into the sport of professional boxing so far.
Belfort has expressed a desire to return to professional boxing, stating in 2008 that he was interested in talking with Golden Boy Promotions regarding a deal. In 2010, in response to former IBA Heavyweight Champion James Toney's challenge to fight an MMA fighter in the boxing ring, Belfort expressed interest in representing the sport of MMA against Toney in a 6-round professional match. James Toney, however, went on to be defeated in the UFC Octagon by Randy Couture at UFC 118.
Vítor was born on April 1, 1977 in Rio de Janeiro to a French-Brazilian father and a Greek-Brazilian mother. Belfort is married to Joana Prado, with whom he has three children. They started dating in 2000, broke up but repatched during a reality show in 2002. That same year Belfort appeared next to Joana when she was photographed for the Brazilian edition of Playboy.
On January 9, 2004, Vítor's sister, Priscila Belfort disappeared and the relatives received no information about her. In August 2007, a woman (identified as Elaine Paiva) confessed that she participated in her kidnapping and killing and that she was kidnapped to pay off a four thousand dollar debt Paiva had with drug dealers. Paiva was arrested along with three others alleged to be involved in the kidnapping. The group allegedly buried her body in the woods in Rio de Janeiro where police conducted searches but her remains have never been found. Her family however does not accept this version and believes that Priscila is still alive somewhere. Vítor still maintains a missing page on the Brazilian version of his website.
Belfort speaks Portuguese, English, and Spanish.
He is a dedicated Christian. Belfort believes the most important key to his success and longevity in the sport is that he is happy with what he does. "I just thank God every day. I’m happy. I’m healthy. Bottom line is it's just the way you treat life and life will treat you back. Make sure you’re happy with whatever is going on in your life. I think the key of life is just be happy with what's in front of you and the decision of my life is under God and God knows what's best for me." Belfort also appeared in a testimonial video on I Am Second, in which he shares his story of his faith in Jesus Christ.
His autobiography Vitor Belfort: Lições de garra, fé e sucesso was published by Thomas Nelson Brazil in 2012.
Belfort appears in the video for the song "I'm Down" by The Almost.