Vitor Belfort thinks it’s time for a change.

The 43-year-old is about to embark on the ultimate leg of his storied profession, which is able to happen for ONE Championship at a date and site nonetheless to be decided. Belfort expects to combat kickboxer Alain Ngalani, however since signing with the Singapore-based promotion in March 2019 he’s additionally loved the discussions he’s had with ONE officers about advancing the trigger for MMA.

Belfort’s high precedence is seeing enhancements in fighter security, which he feels is lagging behind different facets of MMA’s improvement. Whereas MMA has by no means been extra obtainable to most of the people, Belfort wonders why the fighters are nonetheless coping with the identical points which have plagued the game for years and why its picture has stagnated.

“Each sport, each 10 years, one thing occurred that needs to be modified,” Belfort instructed MMA Combating. “The rule set, the best way the game is constructed, the TV exhibits, the best way they interact the followers. So I can see that MMA doesn’t change. The one factor that modifications is the lights. The manufacturing is best, it’s stunning, however the guidelines are the identical. Fighters should not pleased with the best way they’re judged. Fighters aren’t completely happy as a result of the folks which might be judging, they don’t know MMA. They don’t know the way it works. It’s those who come from boxing beginning to choose MMA. The checklist goes on and on and on…”

“However let’s speak concerning the security half. The very first thing that needs to be modified is security. Take a look at soccer. Soccer modified loads of guidelines. The gear, the best way they assault, the quarterback they can’t get hit like they used to earlier than. Why? As a result of the very first thing we expect, we’re considering security.

“I don’t like when promoters are selling blood, violence. I don’t like that. As a result of guess what? Inform me a promoter moreover (ONE CEO) Chatri (Sityodtong) or perhaps (Bellator President) Scott Coker, those who have fought earlier than, they’ve actually been within the ring and so they’ve fought, individuals who have been in there and so they understand how it’s to get bruised and get minimize with 200 stitches in your face. It’s very straightforward to ship somebody to warfare and say, ‘Hey, go combat for me. I’ll be right here residence ready so that you can return.’ While you look to historical past, the kings earlier than, they used to enter the entrance of the battles. King David, you identify it. Now, presidents, they are saying let’s go combat, however it’s straightforward to select up a combat if you don’t need to go and combat your self.”

Having fought professionally since 1996, Belfort can recall the times when there wasn’t something near the idea of “unified guidelines.” These outdated exhibits (Belfort made his UFC debut at UFC 12 on Feb. 7, 1997) are sometimes romanticized for his or her lack of regulation, however Belfort believes that the joys of these outlaw days has worn off and even with the best way the principles have modified over the previous twenty years, followers are craving for a extra substantial step ahead.

“It’s similar to anything,” Belfort mentioned, speaking about fan malaise. “Let’s say if you first date your girlfriend, that’s a type of love. Then you definitely’re ready to get married, and then you definitely get married, after which swiftly it begins altering. ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know that.’ After which the love begins dealing with some challenges. You go pee, you set the factor up and also you neglect to place it down, after which your spouse is like, ‘Ah!’

“So now you was a prince, now you begin turning into like a frog. The way you develop that love is thru a means of reinventing your self.”

The right way to finest handle security considerations then? Belfort has some radical concepts, together with the restriction of sure methods. On the very least, he’d wish to see the intent behind probably harmful strikes reviewed, particularly those who he considers to be designed to injure slightly than result in a end or rating factors.

Particularly, Belfort disapproves of Jon Jones’s notorious indirect kick, a downward strike aimed on the high of an opponent’s leg that may have a debilitating impact on fighters. So long as methods like which might be allowed, Belfort wonders how a lot unfavorable perceptions about MMA will be altered.

“A very powerful factor is, how concerning the accidents of the ligaments?” Belfort mentioned. “The stomp kicks. What that kick does? That kick is to win a combat or is it to injure your opponent? I’m in search of the protection of my athlete. He can have longevity not when he’s combating, however when he’s completed combating, he can stroll good, he can have a wholesome life. The article of the combat is for the opposite man to win both by submission or by knockout or by an aggressive assault, good offense. Everyone loves soccer as a result of they’re in search of offense, but in addition a great protection that’s turning into offense as nicely. It’s all the time assault, protection, assault, protection. Each sport is like that.

“That being mentioned, loads of guidelines, like if you get a minimize, you may combat even when there’s a pool of blood. How good is that and the way dangerous is that? We don’t have insurance coverage firms or banks sponsoring our sport as a result of we’re thought-about a bloodsport. We’re the one sport thought-about a bloodsport. Why are we nonetheless getting in that route? Why are we [not addressing] issues that may actually trigger [injuries]? You noticed Jon Jones combating Thiago Marreta. Thiago Marreta’s been out of combating as a result of the [oblique] kicks that Jon Jones was doing, they simply tore all of the ligaments of his knees. After all, he’ll by no means be the identical. After all, he can return, however he won’t ever be the identical. So what’s the aim of that kick? To trigger a win, to trigger a knockout, or to trigger harm?”

It needs to be famous that although Thiago Santos has been on the mend resulting from a number of ligament accidents in his left knee since going 25 minutes with Jones on this previous July, it isn’t clear whether or not Jones’s indirect kicks straight contributed to that harm.

That mentioned, Belfort factors to that maneuver as one among a number of methods that whereas viable within the strictest sense of martial fight, shouldn’t essentially be allowed in competitors.

“That kick takes you out six months,” Belfort continued. “Perhaps makes you stroll like by no means earlier than. In martial arts, we train you to place your thumb in any individual’s eyes. We’re gonna permit that to occur? No, we’re not gonna permit that to occur. We will do fishhooks. So that you see, we can’t deliver some martial arts inside the game as a result of now you’re inflicting injury that may final ceaselessly.

“That injury in Thiago Santos is ceaselessly. He doesn’t have the ligaments, now it’s ceaselessly. We now have to keep away from injury that’s ceaselessly in ligaments and issues.”

Belfort has different considerations. He’d wish to see one thing much like concussion protocol in terms of accidents to different elements of the physique so far as giving the fighters a clearer timeline on how lengthy they need to be out of motion. He thinks gloves could possibly be modified to be safer. And he thinks that the fighters, referees, and cornermen will be extra accountable in terms of defending the athletes.

He was mortified by the injury that Anthony Smith took in his combat with Glover Teixeira at UFC Jacksonville and prompt the referee ought to have been the primary to acknowledge that the combat wanted to be stopped, with Smith’s coaches subsequent in line by way of accountability.

“What’s the explanation?” Belfort mentioned. “What did they do with Anthony Smith? They only induced him to be so beat up. He’s not gonna win the combat. It’s okay to lose. You’ve acquired to have widespread sense. So I’m not wanting extra on the side of one thing that’s extra necessary: The security of the athlete, not simply in his profession, however after when he’s retired and when he nonetheless has a life.

“A number of issues need to be revisited and altered, for my part. I don’t have the facility, however I’ve been on this sport earlier than Dana White got here in. Earlier than Lorenzo Fertitta purchased it. I’ve been combating since once I was 18 years outdated [at UFC 12], that’s how lengthy I’ve been concerned and nonetheless competing. I’m not the identical, so issues need to be in place that we will be transferring ahead to a wholesome surroundings, higher, folks can deliver their household. They are saying, ‘Wow, that’s cool, such a violent sport, however security primary.’”

Within the ultimate levels of his combating profession, Belfort is waiting for his subsequent combat, one that can focus extra on regulation than promotion. A significant motive that Belfort signed with ONE was what he noticed as an organization seeking to provoke change and achieve this whereas valuing the enter of veteran fighters.

“Earlier than I signed with ONE, I actually noticed that ONE is an organization that’s keen to take this data from somebody who paved the best way and realized,” Belfort mentioned. “I introduced one thing to them, they’re keen to do it. Merging two sports activities in a single, boxing and MMA, merging ONE guidelines, they’re keen to deliver muay Thai with little gloves, submission matches in the identical night time.

“You’re going to see a combat, you may watch an MMA combat, you may watch a submission combat, you may watch many kinds of martial arts. So now you’ve gotten prospects, they’re like, ‘I’ve one thing [in ONE] that I can’t have anyplace.’ I believe we’re gonna see loads of change.”