By the time Vitor Belfort steps into the Octagon to face UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva at UFC 126 it will have been nearly a year-and-a-half since his last outing. However, the challenge created by the layoff doesn’t appear to concern Belfort, perhaps due an appreciation of life’s lows and highs brought on by the personal triumphs and tragedies he’s endured.

A previous UFC light heavyweight title-holder, as well as winner of UFC 12’s heavyweight tournament, “The Phenom” had the MMA world at his fingertips in the not-too-distant past but also dealt with the kidnapping/murder of his sister and a positive drug test for PED usage.

Belfort, who seems to have truly evolved into a man defined by life experience, spoke to Tatame about how he is approaching the upcoming bout with Silva, if he’s concerned about not having fought since September 2009, and a number of other topics.

“I’ve been training with Ray Sefo…Rodrigo Artilheriro, a world champion of Muay Thai,” Belfort responded when asked about his preparation for the February 2011 fight. “I’ve been training (at XTreme Couture) and at Tapout’s gym. Everything’s going just fine. Vegas don’t have beaches so I only train here.”

In fact, the Brazilian added he enjoyed living in America so much he plans to stay here for the remainder of his career, saying “I decided to move here because I want to end my career on the United States, where I started it.”

As far as if he feels year-plus of inactivity will affect his showing against Silva, Belfort maintained a positive outlook, stating, “Every rule has its exceptions. I’ve had the opportunity, so I don’t care about the “ifs”. I don’t have this word in my vocabulary.”

Winning a second strap in the UFC, however, has crossed his thoughts on more than one occasion but isn’t his primary source of inspiration in terms of wanting to compete.

“(The belt is) just one of the factors that motivate me,” he explained. “What motivates me the most is being able to perform the work I’ve been doing (well). My expectations are these – they are all about what I can do on that fight. Anderson is very versatile so you can’t have one settled game plan. The important thing is to be prepared for anything because he’s a great fighter.”

“You can get there thinking things will go one way, but it can suddenly change. I know he’s the best in the world, but I can get intimidated by it,” he continued.

The 19-8 Brazilian, who has won his last five bouts, also made sure to address hard-hitting PRIDE icon Wanderlei Silva’s recent statements regarding how great a threat the UFC’s 185-pound champion poses to him as an opponent.

“I don’t think anything. He’s a spectator and he can think whatever he wants to,” he said of “The Axe Murderer”. “If you have a mouth you can say whatever you want, and Wanderlei has a big mouth. But it’s about cheering – everyone can cheer for their favorite – and the important is to be respectful and know how to choose the right words. In February I’ll have my chance for the belt and let’s see how it’ll be.”