"I have a lot of respect for Jon Jones," said Belfort in an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour on Monday. "I'm very grateful for opportunity. Stepping into this fight, its old lion vs. young lion, so it's pretty cool. I'm an old lion, I have tricks, you know what I mean? I've been around. I've taken all kinds of beatings in life, not just inside Octagon, but outside as well. It's just using my experience and using my knowledge and getting ready."
"I like him as well, he's very nice, very polite, so soft spoken, and a great athlete. That's good, the sport's getting bigger. How many guys from my era are around. Not much? How many guys from when I was fighting and winning my first title in '96, I don't know what Jon Jones was doing [then]. I'm privileged to fight a guy like him, It's a privilege to me. I never thought I'd be around that much, 17 years of a career, and having this chance for the light heavyweight title. It's a title that I had before in 2004. Here I am again with this opportunity."
Though many have piled on Jones for turning down a fight with Chael Sonnen at UFC 151, in part leading to the event's cancellation, Belfort refuses to criticize Jones and his camp for the decision. After all, it did open up this opportunity for him.
"I know Jon Jones and his camp has his [reasons], they know what is best from them, I'm not going to take any position on that," Belfort said. "He's a grown-up boy, he has his crew, his manager, they made their choice, that's the choice that's best for them. If he didn't make that choice, I wouldn't have the chance, so I'm very happy he didn't take the [Sonnen] fight. I think [Chael Sonnen] didn't deserve [a shot at Jones because of] the loss [to Anderson Silva], the way he lost. I think someone deserves it, but [Sonnen] doesn't have a history in that weight division in the UFC."
"I have history in that division, I have history at the heavyweight division, I have history at the middleweight division, I think it's fair, they way it end up. I think the fans are getting something that's fair. I think, basically, what I think is right, what I think is wrong, I can only speak for myself."
Penick's Analysis: Belfort absolutely wasn't an obvious pick for this fight, but he'll try to make the most of this opportunity come Sept. 22. Whether the "old lion" has anything to offer the new kingpin at 205 lbs. is a different story, and considering he's been competing at lower weight classes for his last several fights, Jones should be the much larger fighter come fight night. It's a different and somewhat interesting challenge for Jones, especially on just a few week's notice, but Belfort's style isn't really something that should present much worry for Jones. Belfort's got to blitz him early, and test his chin in a way that it hasn't been tested before. Failing that, I'm not sure where else he turns.