‘Alerta Pri’: Vitor Belfort’s mother turned personal tragedy into lifesaving mission


Vitor Belfort was wearing a t-shirt that read “Come back, Priscila” when he won the UFC light heavyweight championship in 2004, three weeks after his sister disappeared in Rio de Janeiro. Almost 19 years later, there is still no body found or definite answer on the case, but Belfort’s mother has found a way to turn tragedy into a purpose.

Inspired by United States’ Amber Alert — a system created to spread the word to society about abducted children via SMS text messages — Jovita Belfort began campaigning for a similar program in her native Rio de Janeiro in 2019, trying to help other families in their quest to find missing children and teenagers.

Jovita Belfort was invited to speak at the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro but it took years for it to become a reality. Once it was made into a state law in 2021 under the name of “Alerta Pri,” a tribute to her missing daughter, she thought things were finally going in the right direction.

Photo via Jovita Belfort

“I still live a daily grief, a daily pain,” Jovita Belfort told with MMA Fighting. “To me, the best way to deal with it was to turn my pain into a fight so other people don’t go through what I went through. Nothing was like it when Priscila disappeared. Nothing. It was like I was trapped in a vacuum. I was falling down a rabbit hole, a tunnel .”


Jovita Belfort found help in an NGO (non-governmental organization) in Sao Paulo after her disappearance in 2004, an entity that specialized in helping people deal with the pain of having missing relatives, and realized the police needed an official body specialized in dealing with those situations.

According to data provided by the Rio de Janeiro government, 51,819 people have gone missing in the state over the past decade. “Alerta Pri” only worked for three months in 2021, firing off SMS messages about the disappearance of 30 kids, and according to Belfort, 27 were found. The system was still shut down after the phone companies demanded that the government pay to send the messages to the people.

“Not many people in Brazil pay attention to missing people so we had to win hearts and minds,” said Belfort, who works for the government today as part of Rio de Janeiro’s Social Development and Human Rights office since 2019. The most disappointing thing about all of this was the fact that phone companies decided to leave after their success. We’re outraged. It was such a hit, and now it’s suspended? What number of children could be found in the time since? What are the effects of ?”

on families?

Belfort said the office is currently battling phone companies in court to have the system be reinstated, and laments that such a tool could have helped find her daughter back in 2004.

“You didn’t have so many cameras around, you didn’t have Facebook or Instagram or any of that,” she said. “The alert is so much faster. The faster you get a photo released, better are your odds at finding them.”

The Priscila Belfort case

UFC 46: Belfort vs. Couture

Vitor Belfort
Photo by Josh Hedges, Zuffa LLC, Getty Images

Priscila Belfort was last seen on Jan. 9, 2004, after leaving work for lunch. A ransom note was never sent to the family. Three years later, a woman said she was one of 10 people that kidnapped and murdered Priscila over a debt, but no body was ever found.

Vitor Belfort, signed by the UFC at the time, was scheduled to challenge Randy Couture for the 205-pound championship in Las Vegas on Jan. 31, and won via first-round TKO. The Phenom was obviously emotional during and after the fight, sporting a shirt in which he pleaded with his sister for her return.

“It was very hard to watch because he suffered a lot,” Jovita Belfort said. He also began to feel depressed. But [his wife] Joana helped him keep his spirits up. He kept asking me to tell him it was to honour his sister and get her name out there.

“But it still hurts him, Joana, the children, and my sister. It’s not easy to know if your loved one is feeling well, whether they are eating properly, being treated well, or if they have died. Only people who have experienced something similar can understand how it feels. So many questions. This is why I rise every morning to do my part in defending this cause. This is my way of being close to her and to honor her name, not just to suffer. Vitor, my grandkids, my daughter-in-law, they give me that strength.”

Source: https://www.mmafighting.com/2022/12/25/23521029/alerta-pri-vitor-belfort-mother-turned-personal-tragedy-lifesaving-mission-ufc?rand=96749