UFC 224: Vitor Belfort retires after taking massive KO kick to the head from Lyoto Machida

Vitor Belfort, left, announced his retirement on Saturday after taking a vicious knockout blow from fellow Brazilian Lyoto Machida in Rio de Janiero. (AP)

Vitor Belfort stepped into the Octagon for the last time on Saturday at Rio de Janiero’s Jeunesse Arena.

The former light heavyweight champion, who has fought off and on in the UFC since winning the UFC 12 heavyweight tournament as a 19-year-old in 1997, took on another Brazilian fighting legend in Lyoto Machida at UFC 224.

Lyoto Machida lulls Vitor Belfort to sleep before KO blow

The two fighters fought a mostly cautious first round that saw Machida deliver several kicks toward his opponent. It was foreshadowing of the decisive blow of the match as Machida (16-8, UFC) connected with a swift left kick to the jaw of Belfort (15-11 UFC) that floored the former champion via knockout at one minute in the second round.

Belfort, laid flat, was knocked out on the mat as Machida got down on his knees to honor his defeated opponent.

“I have a lot of respect for Vitor Belfort,” Machida said through a translator after the match. “He’s done a lot for the sport. Everyone needs to respect him.

“I was looking for the right moment. All I need is one strike to end the fight. Tonight I was better than he was. It’s hard to say who’s better than who, but tonight I was better than he was.”

Vitor Belfort says goodbye to MMA

Belfort, 41, recovered from the knockout blow to address the Brazilian crowd. There, he confirmed the fight was indeed his swan song and dropped his gloves on the mat as his hometown crowd chanted his name.

“It’s been a long ride,” Belfort said. “Life is about beginning middle and end. And I think I’ve come to the end. So congratulations to Machida, and I’m leaving my gloves here.”

“I want to thank you all my family. I’m ok. I think everything in life has a beginning middle and end. It’s time for me to think, and take care of my family and endeavors.”

Belfort retires with a 26-15 MMA record including 18 wins by knockout and three by submission.

Lyoto Machida challenges another UFC veteran

As for Machida’s next step, he called out another UFC veteran, this time speaking English to deliver a challenge.

“Michael Bisping, I’m still waiting for you man. I still want to do this fight. If you want to retire, you’ve got to fight me first.”

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