UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon UFC President Dana White announced via his Twitter page that Belfort is not injured and will fight Silva for the title next (with the Marquardt/Okami winner determining the next contender in line for a shot).
Whether viewed as one more example in an unfortunate pattern or a curious coincidence given UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva’s newly freed fight-schedule, it appears Vitor Belfort will no longer see action on November 23rd at UFC 122 in Germany as originally expected due to an undisclosed injury. Belfort had been previously attached to a match-up against 25-5 Yushin Okami at the event.
Recently victorious Nate Marquardt will step in to serve as the Brazilian’s replacement against Okami in the show’s headlining bout.
News of the change in plans, as well as the reason given, was originally reported by MMAWeekly.
Belfort’s withdrawal from UFC 122 marks the fourth straight time an injury has interfered with one of his scheduled fights. The first three involved his long-rumored clash with Silva, though in fairness to “The Phenom” two of the postponements were related to the 185-pound champion’s health rather than his own.
The timing of the announcement is also interesting given Chael Sonnen’s recent hit for having used performance enhancing drugs during the build towards his title-fight against “The Spider” at UFC 117. Though Sonnen plans to appeal the California State Athletic Commission’s ruling, it is still likely he will be given a suspension of at least six months and thereby no longer be available for his previously expected rematch against Silva on January 1st, 2011 at UFC 125. With Belfort needing an undetermined amount of time to heal, and the UFC’s past desire to put him in the Octagon against Silva, it seems possible he could step into the vacancy created by Sonnen’s infraction.
Belfort has not fought since beating Rich Franklin via first-round TKO in September 2009 at UFC 103. He also has yet to compete for the organization as a true 185-pounder, as his bout against Franklin took place at a catch-weight of 195 pounds. However, the hard-hitting Brazilian is 5-0 since 2007 with four of the wins being strike-based finishes. He is 19-8 in his career with notable wins in the past over Randy Couture and Wanderlei Silva.