Officials made the highly anticipated Brazilian vs. Brazilian showdown between Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida official on Tuesday.
The two former UFC light heavyweight champions will square off at UFC 224 on May 12. Belfort and Machida had already talked about the bout, but the UFC hadn’t previously made any official announcements.
The bout takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Belfort’s home town, which is only fitting, as it is expected to be the final bout of the storied fighter’s career.
The 40-year-old Belfort (26-13, 1NC) began fighting as a teenager in 1996, taking one fight under the SuperBrawl banner before making the leap to the UFC. He made an immediate impact, winning the UFC heavyweight tournament and then destroying fighters like Tank Abbott and Wanderlei Silva en route to becoming a perennial contender no matter where he fought.
One fighter that he has never faced is his countryman, friend, and some times training partner Lyoto Machida (23-8), but that will change in his retirement fight at UFC 224.
After being unable to goad Michael Bisping into a dual-retirement bout, Belfort asked for a fight with Machida, wanting to send a message to other fighters about the integrity of the sport.
“I’m over 20 years being relevant in this sport. I broke a lot barriers and paved the way for a generation after me. I am one of the pioneers of the sport and I’m proud of it. I could not walk into the octagon for the last time without sending a relevant message to the: athletes, fans and to the sport itself,” Belfort wrote on his Instagram account.
“That is the reason why I chose to fight a friend of mine. An athlete that I have a lot respect. A good person a family man. I’m against the so famous ‘trash talk.’ MMA is a sport! A sport that myself and a lot of family men work really hard to support our families. Lyoto and I have known each other for many years, I know his family and we have trained together. I wanted this fight to take place in Brazil because that is where everything started and now it’s time for us to send another message to the world. And the message is: RESPECT!
“May 12th, Lyoto Machida and I will step into the octagon as professionals and (will) still be friends. Always respecting each other and the way we will do that is giving our best in the octagon. I want people to understand that you don’t have to be a bully to be a fighter, you have to be a real man. And that is exactly what the world is in need, real man willing to pay the price to make a difference.”