Vitor Belfort’s sport brought fame and success but the agony of his sister’s kidnapping and murder gave him a whole new perspective on life
While mixed martial arts are not everyone's cup of tea, Brazilian-born Ultimate Fighting Championship hero Vitor Belfort has an incredible story to share about the trauma that lead to even greater gain.
"I think there are two ways to get to God, through pain or through love. Mine was through pain," he shared in a video interview for iamsecond.com.
At age 19, Vitor remembers writing a bargaining note to God saying that if he won the American championship he was about to compete in, he would serve Him forever.
His dream came true and Vitor soon became the youngest fighter to ever score a victory inside the octagon, earning himself the nickname The Phenom.
Yet the promise he had made to God was quickly forgotten.
A year later Vitor received a serious neck injury that threatened to derail his sporting career, leaving him completely devastated.
Grieving his injury while driving an expensive car one day, he encountered a legless man on the sidewalk and rolled down his window.
“Through that tribulation I am a new man”"He was saying 'Victor you know many people who drive by here think I am worthless because I don't have a pair of legs but I can guarantee you Victor that I am more happy than many people who drive big cars past here. I've got Jesus and Jesus can transform your life'," Vitor recalls.
"That day it was the first time I felt God talking to my heart but even with that I didn't follow Him."
In 2004, he captured the title of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion but celebration soon turned to heartache when Vitor's sister was kidnapped in Brazil and the family never saw her again.
"We have words for if you have lost your husband – you're a widow. If you have lost your parents – you're an orphan. But if you have lost your child you don't have a name for that. It is so painful that you don't have a name for it," he shares.
"We never found her body but we heard a story that more than 20 guys raped her and killed her."
Vitor shares that his heart was hardened with bitterness and all he could think of was revenge or turning to medication to numb the pain.
"Then I started praying, I started a strong fire with God and he spoke to my heart and said, 'Son, it doesn't matter how you look or how you think in your life, your sister belongs to me'," he recalls.
"I think that was the biggest touch with a true relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit."
Although it was a painful way to finally submit to God's will for his life, Vitor says he has never been so peaceful and feels blessed to now have a great family and a true relationship with God.
"I can see now that through that tribulation I am a new man. I am a strong man. I am mature. I am not perfect – I still struggle with many things. I am in the middle of the process and every day I am trying to improve myself," he says.
Vitor compares faith throughout life's trials to gold being refined in the fire, making reference to 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 7.
He adds that he strongly believes that there is a God-shaped whole in each person that can only be filled by Him.
"The whole world and our culture are teaching us to fill this with [material] things and with pleasures. I've been there and I know how it is," he says.
Yet now Vitor says he does not place his trust and faith in himself or anyone else because after each person dies they will have to come before God and be judged.
"I believe the only way to get to God is through a bridge and this bridge is Jesus," he explains.
"It is important to repent [turn away] from the things you did in the past because God doesn't like a proud heart.
"The bottom line is Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins. You need to look at your passed as a cancelled check – it is paid off – Jesus paid for your past!
"[But] for Jesus to come into your life you have to open the door to your heart, otherwise He will never come in."
Vitor goes on to explain that God looks at each person's heart and adds, "your heart is the root of everything that comes out of you", which includes every person's words, actions and thoughts.
While he is back with the UFC, Vitor says;, "now I understand that the platform does not belong to me it belongs to God".
When questioned in an interview with Pastor Steven Furtick about his involvement in mixed martial arts fighting as a Christian, Vitor explains that he believes God looks at the "intention of my heart".
"God has people everywhere – in armies, as doctors, even Jesus was (described as) a lion and a lamb," he says.
Ultimately, he concludes, the aim of his life in good times and bad is to always "be focused on the Lord and be strong in the Lord."