I think it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that Vitor Belfort will be signing with the UFC after the third and final fight on his Affliction contract. But in case you needed convincing, here’s Mike Chia Pet laying it out for you:
Having been in many White press conferences and conference calls, I can tell you that he is not a “fantasy booker.” He doesn’t throw out random names of unavailable fighters for matchups with his current champs. Yes, if you ask him about Fedor, he’ll talk about him, but he’ll never flat-out say that he’s targeting Fedor-Lesnar or Fedor-Mir. So to sum up, we have:
–Belfort stating an interest in re-joining the UFC dating back to Dec. 2007
–White and Belfort meeting in L.A.
–Belfort turning down an oversized opponent for a lower-risk, lower-reward match
–White fantasy booking a fighter whom he does not have under contract
Dana White is no fool, and he’d be unlikely to make the same mistake he made with Cro Cop so soon afterward. Perhaps there is no official contract in place, but all of the evidence, circumstantial though it is, just makes me believe that he knows he’ll get his man.
But what about the possibility of Belfort re-signing with Affliction? I have serious doubts that Affliction will be re-signing anyone. But that doesn’t mean Dana’s ‘speculating’ hasn’t peeved off Tom Atencio:
“[White] did say something [about Belfort],” Atencio told us about White’s recruiting tactics. “I’m talking to [Belfort’s] management, so we’re in negotiations. Where Dana came up with that, I don’t know. Maybe he’s just trying to stir the pot. That’s what he does and he does it well.”
Although Atencio was gracious as always throughout the interview, you did get a sense that he may have been a tad irked by the fact that White was trying to dip into Affliction’s talent pool.
The conversation even swayed towards other major sports, where if an owner openly discusses wanting a player under contract with an opposing team, that owner could be fined for tampering.
“Maybe he wants to get hit with a tampering charge,” Atencio jokingly told us about what he thought White’s motives were. “I just don’t know, I can’t speak for Dana. I’m sure he just wants to stir the pot, like I said.”
Depending on the terms of Vitor Belfort’s contract, the UFC may indeed be opening the door to a lawsuit – not that they care. We’ve talked many times about the UFC’s army of lawyers and I don’t doubt Dana would actually be pleased to burn more of Affliction’s money in court. In the past, the UFC has held a firm “We don’t mess around with fighters under contract with other promotions”, but I guess that’s out the window, at least when it comes to Affliction.