Belfort and Sperry: ‘Destinies cross again’

Friday, September 21, 2012

Long, long ago, 170 pound pound Pat Miletich fought 260 pound Dan Severn. Everyone thought Miletich would lose, but in the prefight interview Miletich offered a reply for the ages.

“Anything can happen in MMA,” said Miletich. “That’s why you have the fight.”

Few give Belfort a chance versus Jon Jones Saturday night. The oddmakers are calling it 10-1, or worse. The fight is on short notice. Belfort hasn’t fought at Lighheavyweight in five years. And Jon Jones is, well, Jon Jones. He possess a ferocious work ethic, comes from the most successful gym in mixed martial arts, and enjoys some special gifts including the longest arms in the UFC and with his two brothers in the NFL, what has to be some extraordinarily genes.

But Belfort is a man of strong, deep faith. His approach to the fight is Zen like.

“I don’t think too much,” said Belfort of his fight philosophy. “The more you think, the more tight you get. So I’m just going to enjoy every second of the fight.”

“I’m ready, it’s all in my mind. I’m doing this for a long time. Just take advantage of what’s positive. Focus on the positive, not the negative.”

Some of Belfort’s calmness comes from having been through so much. He arrived in the UFC at 19, and tore through his first four opponents in a combined 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Then he got into the fast life, and split with his mentor Carlson Gracie, whose name he had adopted. He lost his sister tragically. By the time he lost to Dan Henderson in 2006, he had gone 2-5 his last seven fights.

But now he is reborn, winning seven of his last eight fights.

And he is calm.

Some of the calm may come from having weathered so many storms, but some may come from his new, old coach – Mario “The Zen Machine” Sperry.

The now gray-haired Sperry has known Belfort since he was seven years old. Sperry was on the mats the day Belfort took his first lesson in Jiu-Jitsu at Carlson Gracie’s legendary academy. And he will be in his corner Saturday night.

“We’ve worked together many times on many occasions,” said Sperry. “And now our destinies crossed again.”

Sperry has no illusions.

“It’s kind of hard to find a gap in Jon Jones’ game,” Sperry said.

Mindful of the recent turmoil in Jones’ life, Sperry thinks it might factor in, but probably won’t.

“I don’t think it will make too much difference, but of course it’s not a good environment to fight a guy like Vitor with all the things in the background,” Sperry said. “He’s a great fighter and he’s a champion. He’s there not just because he behaves well on the mat. He’s strong mentally as well. But of course, this is not a good thing to happen in the background.”

“Things can change very fast. We just met each other again, and it’s like old times. Vitor is much more mature but he’s still strong and fast. At some points we went different ways but now we’re back together.

“Life is funny, and sometimes it gives you great surprises.”

Miletich fought Severn to a 20 minute draw back in 1998, surprising many. Saturday night we may yet be surprised again.

And that is why you have the fight.

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