Shaq: Vitor Belfort knocked out person ‘talking crazy’ at bar

Shaquille O’Neal has Vitor Belfort to thank for his lifetime love affair with MMA.

One of the greatest basketball players ever and among the biggest media personalities on the planet, Shaq, is also a huge MMA fan. “The Big Aristotle” started training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing back in 2000 and regularly attends UFC events. His passion for the sport even led to O’Neal becoming an unlockable character in UFC Undisputed 2010, and apparently it all started thanks to a chance encounter with Belfort.

“We’re at training camp in Hawaii, and I’m walking down the street, and a motherf***** grabs me, and he’s strong as f*ck,” O’Neal said on the Pound 4 Pound with Kamaru Usman and Henry Cejudo podcast. “I’m thinking, ‘Oh shit, it’s about to go down.’ And I turn around and we square up, and Vitor Belfort goes like this [raises hands] ‘No, no, no, man! I’m a fan of yours.’ I think this was UFC 1. Real talk. Motherf*cker just grabs me so I’m getting ready to square up, ‘No, no, no! I’m just a fan!’ and he gave me tickets to his fight. And he beat some dude who had on some overalls. …

“The motherf*cker grabbed me in the middle of the street. So in my mind, I’m about to f*** him up, because he’s little. But he was nice. ‘No, no, no. My friend, my friend. I fight in the UFC. We have a fight.’ ‘Motherf*cker what time?’ We didn’t have shit to do. He beat some 7-foot dude in some overalls, and I had never seen a sport like that. So I’ve been a fan ever since.”

Shaq was mistaken as Belfort did not compete at UFC 1, but the bout in question was Belfort’s first professional contest: a 12-second knockout of Jon Hess as SuperBrawl 2 in 1996. At that time the UFC had only held 11 events and the modern sport of MMA was still very much in its nascent stages, making Shaq one of the earliest fans of it. And from that fandom, O’Neal says he maintained a friendship with the man who introduced him to the sport, even telling a story about how Belfort once put his MMA skills to use for Shaq.

“He knocked somebody out for me one time,” O’Neal said. “Dude was talking crazy and Vitor just came out of nowhere, BING BING. I’m looking at the dude on the floor and I’m like, ‘Vitor, go.’ ‘No man! Duh duh duh.’ ‘Motherf*cker get out of here! Go. I got it.’ Then the cops come [shrugs]. Yeah.”

Belfort would go on to be a one-time UFC light heavyweight champion and one of the most popular fighters in MMA history. Meanwhile, O’Neal at one point wanted to try his hand in the cage, but he never ultimately did. Instead, Shaq stayed focused on his basketball career, and then his other business endeavors, and currently serves as Reebok’s President of Basketball.

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