When Jon Jones steps inside the cage in Toronto on Sept. 22, he'll be staring across at a walking breathing MMA relic. Though only 35-years old, Vitor Belfort began fighting at roughly the same time as retired MMA legend Randy Couture.
In fact, the now 49-year old Couture handed the then 20-year old fresh-faced Belfort his first MMA loss and the two famously battled twice more with Couture taking two of three against the young Brazilian.
Since rededicating himself to the sport after testing positive for steroids following a decision loss to Henderson at Pride 32 in 2006, Belfort is 7-1 and has faced notables Terry Martin, Matt Lindland, Rich Franklin, Anderson Silva, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony Johnson.
However, despite his vast experience, UFC champion Jon Jones questions the toughness of the opponents Belfort has faced compared to his own opposition.
"Me and Vitor Belfort are from different generations of fighting," the champ said in a UFC pre-fight interview. "I really believe that in my short career I've already fought a lot more tougher opponents than he has. I feel like I've had more championship caliber fights than he has. I'm ready."
Having buzzed through names like Brandon Vera, Ryan Bader, Maurício Rua, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, and Rashad Evans, the last five in succession, the champ certainly has momentum swinging in his direction. But he's also excited for a shot at redemption, having been roughed up a bit by the last left-handed fighter he faced.
"I'm just really excited to fight Vitor Belfort mainly because he's a southpaw," Jones said. "The last time I fought a southpaw was Lyoto [Machida] and I got punched pretty good and I'm really interested to just do a better job against another dangerous southpaw and to look better than what I looked before against Lyoto."
Jones had arguably not lost a round since that first round against Machida, who has a very unorthodox and difficult-to-prepare-for style of striking. Once Jones adjusted to it in the fights' second round however, he was able to unleash a bit of his own unorthodox striking and catch Machida after which he transitioned seamlessly into grappling mode where he used his superior wrestling skills to get into position to finish the highly regarded Brazilian in dramatic fashion via standing guillotine choke.
It's that set of diverse skills that Jones believes gives him the advantage over Belfort.
"He's a boxer slash jiu-jitsu fighter, but his versatility is not as good as mine," Jones said. "But where he lacks versatility he does have experience and physical strength. He's a winner, I'm a winner. He's a dominant guy and I believe that I dominate a lot of my competition.
"It's going to be magnificent. A magnificent display of martial arts."