The UFC has changed a lot over the years, almost entirely for the better. Fighters are now almost all professionally trained, in shape and capable of at least vaguely coherent post-fight interviews. They also compete against like-size men in organized weight classes.
That was not always true.
Witness, with your own eyes, the amazing spectacle that is Vitor Belfort vs. Scott Ferrozzo at UFC 12, all the way back in 1997.
Lead Writer Jonathan Snowden and I did, and laughed nonstop for approximately 45 minutes. Here, in the first edition of our new "Fight Talk" series, is our email exchange about the fight, in its unedited, stream-of-consciousness glory.
Snowden: From the tale of the tape, you know this is going to be a special brand of fun. Belfort was 19 years old and weighed 205 pounds. His opponent Scott Ferrozzo? He packed 323 pounds onto a 5'11" frame.
Botter: I have a hard time even getting past the tale of the tape, Jonathan. Mostly because of one simple word: Pitfighting. Was this really a thing? I remember the old Pitfighter game in the arcades; that seemed like a lot of fun, but it seems to me that Pitfighting was the martial art you assigned to fat dudes who may or may not have had facial hair. You know, as a way to cover up their fatness.
Snowden: Once the fight, started nothing could cover up Ferrozzo's fatness, though. His belly didn't just jiggle, it hung over the waist of his Lycra shorts, so sad and dejected. I love when the camera cuts to his cheering section, seven schleps in homemade "Back for More" T-shirts. The two (two!) women with mullets in that group pretty much epitomize the Scott Ferrozzo ethos. And it's glorious.
Botter: I think there's one moment for me, more than any other, that epitomizes why this fight will forever live in my memory. It's when Jeff Blatnick talks about the weight difference between Ferrozzo and Belfort. You can hear the awe in his voice, as though young Belfort is simply in for a bad night because Ferrozzo is so fat. As though fat equals awesome at fighting.
If fat was a skill, Scott Ferrozzo would be a ninja. He would've been the best heavyweight of all time.
Snowden: Look, we have both been fat guys, Jeremy. So that gives us the leeway to delve into this a little bit. If you pause the video at just the right spot, you can see how much bigger Ferrozzo's double chin is than his actual chin. It's enormous.
Spoiler alert: His tiny chin may come back to haunt him later in the fight.
Botter: But if you pause the video, you might miss one of the more golden moments of the entire fight: when the announcers somehow refer to both of these fighters as Roy Jones and Mike Tyson.
Belfort? I'm fine with comparing him to another hard puncher. It makes some sense on some level. But that also means you must compare Ferrozzo to Mike Tyson. TO MIKE TYSON.
I can't decide if this is just my favorite part of this fight or if it's my favorite part of my entire life so far. I'll let you know.
Snowden: That exchange is worth transcribing for posterity.
Jeff Blatnick: Hand speed against size is what I call this.
Tank Abbott: It don't matter you know. Roy Jones Jr. ain't going to knock out Mike Tyson.
Tank Abbott: Huh huh.
And then, seconds after Abbott laughed at his own joke, Belfort just clobbers Ferrozzo right on the button with a straight left.
Botter: And then seconds later, after the fight ended, Abbott was forced to realize that he was a dumb buffoon who said something dumb. Because Roy Jones had indeed knocked out Scott Ferrozzo/Mike Tyson. That happened.
I keep rewatching this moment, because it's so great. Oh, and then Mike Tyson tries to keep fighting after Big John MicCarthy pulls Victor (his words, not mine) off the poor, fat, hapless Ferrozzo.
Snowden: Ferrozzo picking up Vitor like a little baby was the best part of the fight. It took two officials to hold the big man back. He was amazed the fight was stopped. I was amazed he somehow got up.
When the fight was over, what looks like 100 Brazilians hit the cage, put Vitor on their shoulders and chant "Zhoo Zheetsu" over and over again.
Botter: I also enjoyed McCarthy calmly explaining to Ferrozzo that he was unconscious on his face, and that's why he stopped the fight. It was the precursor to a thousand angry fighters with a thousand angry voices protesting that they weren't unconscious, but merely biding their time before making a brilliant comeback.
I'd be remiss here if I didn't mention that I still have trouble recognizing young Joe Rogan, even though I know he's the one doing the interview with Victor (again, his words and not mine).
Snowden: Part of that interview is so remarkably comical. Read this aloud, in Vitor's outrageous accent, all while taking huge gasping breaths. I mean, roughly one breath per three or four words. Instant classic.
Joe Rogan: What would you like to do next?
Vitor: I would like to fight. All my life is fighting. And I hope I can fight with the champion. With the champion again. Because the best fighters right now is over here in the UFC. You know? Today we're going to have a superfight. The two the best, Coleman and Severn. And you know, I'm going to be ready for whatever. Carlson want me to fight. And my trainer, Stankie, my stretch, my...(trails off)
Belfort: Stacie. You know.
Carlson Gracie: Stacie. Stacie.
Rogan: (Interrupting) I'm going to ask a question to Carlson over here.
Vitor: (Never stops speaking Portuguese)
Rogan: Who do...(awkward pause)
Vitor: (More Portuguese) My friend (unintelligible). They told me the guy holds the fence all the time. You know, this not fair. But he gonna get back. He gonna beat up again. He gonna fight again. Hope. He's a tough guy.
Rogan: (Ignores that monologue) Carlson what do you look for in the future for Victor?
Gracie: (Immediately answers in Portuguese. Clearly understood the English question) I want him to be as famous as Coll-A-Mon. Even Ferrozzo. Tank Abbott. Severn. Mark Kerr. There are several different good guys over here and I think Victor is going to get there.
By the end even Vitor's translator was calling him Victor!
Botter: This was like foreshadowing, really, for every Belfort interview that would happen in the future. You ask Victor a question, and Victor says all sorts of things without ever answering the specific question you asked.
Nowadays, he talks about Cheezus, but even back then he was an expert at random stream of consciousness. Only this time, his entire camp joined in the fun. And by "fun," I mean "completely nonsensical nonsense."
I've watched this post-fight interview at least 50 times, including 10 times today. And I'll be honest, I still have no idea what any of it meant. And I think that's the beauty of Victor Belfort. Well, that and the fact that holding a cage was being used as a reference for cheating, and then Belfort would go on to take copious amounts of steroids (both illegal and commission approved!) throughout his career.
Vitor Belfort would go on to fight, and lose to, many of the top names in the business. Whether it was Kazushi Sakuraba in Pride or Randy Couture and Anderson Silva in the UFC, there are very few top names Belfort hasn't fallen short against over a career that has spanned almost 17 years. To be fair, he's won more than his fair share too, dropping many a fool with his lightning fast hands.
Scott Ferrozzo never competed professionally again. He did fight Tank Abbott in a random guy's backyard in 2012. No, we are not making this up. You can watch the video up above.