Basketball legend, Shaquille O'Neal reveals unusual meeting with Vitor Belfort: 'Saved me from a fight'

Astro remembers surprising moment alongside Brazilian, who hadn't even debuted in professional MMA

Vitor Belfort poses next to Shaquille O'Neal. Photo: Reproduction/Vitor Belfort

Vitor belfort poses next to Shaquille O'Neal. Photo: Reproduction/Vitor belfort

The world of sport is full of inspiring stories of overcoming and unexpected encounters that change the course of someone's life. One of these stories is that of Shaquille O'Neal, one of the greatest football players basketball of history, and Vitor belfort, one of the pioneers of MMA.

In the podcast 'Pound 4 Pound', with Kamaru Usman e Henry Cejudo, Shaq recounted a chance meeting he had with Belfort in Hawaii. The player, who was at a training camp, was approached by a 'strong guy as hell' who held him down in the street. Instinctively, the former player prepared for the fight, but the 'subject' revealed himself to be the Brazilian, an avowed fan of the basketball star.

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“I thought there was going to be (a fight), then I turn around and he puts his hands up and says, 'No, man. I'm your fan!'. I think it was UFC 1. Seriously. The guy grabbed me and I was ready to hit him. And he gave me tickets to his fight. And he knocked out a guy who was much bigger,” he recalled.

The fight in question was valid for SuperBrawl 2, in 1996, when Vitor beat Jon Hess in just 12 seconds, precisely in his professional MMA debut.

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The meeting with Belfort awakened Shaq's passion for MMA, which made him start training kickboxing and jiu-jitsu. The friendship even led to Vitor getting involved in a fight over the basketball star.

“He knocked out a guy for me once. The guy was talking nonsense and Vitor appeared out of nowhere and 'bing, bing' (punches). I look at the guy on the floor and say: 'Vitor, let's go!' and he didn't want to go. I said I would solve that, the police arrived and that was it”, he concluded.

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