Former legendary UFC middleweight champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva is set to make his return to action after serving out a year-long suspension at February 26’s UFC Fight Night 83 against Michael Bisping.
Originally, however, it was thought that “The Spider” would be rematching Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort at March’s UFC 197 in Brazil.
The promotion was aiming to have heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum defend his title against former champion Cain Velasquez at this card, but that rematch has now been scheduled for next month’s UFC 196 in Las Vegas.
With the moving of the heavyweight title tilt, the plan was to have the two Brazilian legends square off in their native land, but obviously the situation fell through.
According to UFC senior vice president Giovani Decker, “The Spider” had accepted the bout, but it was Belfort who had turned it down:
“With the card losing a title fight as big as that one, we thought this card would fit better at the Arena, no longer at a soccer stadium,” Decker told Combate. “But we couldn’t get the deal done with Vitor Belfort. Anderson accepted the fight, but Vitor decided to wait to see what would happen in the fight between Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold (at UFC 194), and he was right, because Rockhold won and called him out at the UFC 194 post-fight press conference, which was a good sign for him.”
Continuing on, Decker made it clear that “The Phenom” didn’t necessarily not want the fight with Silva, but apparently his eyes are on a title shot, leading the UFC to bump Werdum vs. Velasquez up a month earlier:
“Many people said Vitor didn’t want this fight, and that wasn’t the truth,” he continued. “He wants it, he made it clear it will happen at some time, but for him, thinking about his career and what he has ahead of him at this moment, this fight wouldn’t make sense. We were running out of time, and the UFC needed to announce the UFC 196 main event in Las Vegas. That’s why the fight between Werdum and Velasquez ended up there.”
UFC 197 has now been moved to Las Vegas, and has been turned in to a blockbuster event. Featherweight champion and mega star Conor McGregor will jump up a weight class to challenge for his second title against 155-pound boss Rafael dos Anjos. Newly minted bantamweight champion Holly Holm will also defend her crown against Miesha Tate.
As for Belfort, it’s currently unclear as to what we’ll be next.