A huge disappointment came Thursday night to the UFC as Vitor Belfort was forced to pull out of his UFC 112 main event and highly anticipated fight with Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.
Belfort, 32, had been enduring a torn ligament in his right shoulder for several months which had only continually gotten worse as his training progressed. Ultimately Belfort was forced to have the surgery which will sideline him for up to four months before he can resume full training.
"Everyone is upset but I think they understand the situation," Belfort told reporters in his hometown of Brazil on Friday. "It's part of the life and I will come back stronger after this. This situation gives me more wish to become the champion."
The fight with Silva, scheduled for UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi in April, was a highly anticipated bout amongst the UFC and MMA community. Silva (25-4) is coming off a surgery of his own (elbow) which has left him unable to defend his middleweight title since last April.
Originally scheduled for January's UFC 108 card, many believed Belfort to be the best fighter capable of challenging Silva do to his striking prowess as many consider Silva the best stand up fighter in the World.
After the news came down on Thursday, UFC President Dana White and his staff were left in a bind trying to find a suitable replacement for the middleweight champion.
Chael Sonnen, widely considered the No. 1 contender at middleweight after defeating Nate Marquardt at 109, was injured in that bout last weekend and is thus suspended by the commission until March 9th. That would've left him in a precarious position trying to prepare for a fight with the World's best on three weeks of training.
Nate Marquardt would've been a good option had he not just lost to Sonnen.
Other middleweights like Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, and Alan Belcher are already booked for fights.
That left Demian Maia (12-1), the outstanding Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter to step in and challenge Anderson Silva on short notice.
The question remaining is can the striking-challenged Maia, really challenge the best striker in the World?
We will find out in April. The most important thing, however, is that Silva will be back in action for the first time since August.