Check out the latest breaking UFC NEWS
Anthony Smith hasn’t hidden the fact that he’s looking to take a break. He’s been one of the UFC’s busiest fighters over the past year and a half, competing five times, thrice against current or former UFC light heavyweight champions.
But before “Lionheart” takes some time off to rest and catch up on his family life, he’s got to do something for himself. Smith (31-14 MMA, 7-4 UFC) needed to take his UFC on ESPN+ 11 fight against Alexander Gustafsson for his own well being.
When you’re a no-nonsense guy like Smith, the way his last fight, against champion Jon Jones at UFC 235, went down, well, getting back in the cage and fighting is the only way to put it in the past.
“This one is for me,” Smith told MMA Junkie on Tuesday. “I don’t need to fight. I don’t need the money. I’m in the top five. I could sit back and let the division develop I could sit back and let the division develop, but not feeling like this. I can’t. I can’t just sit with this burning feeling, the feeling of the Jon fight, and there’s just one way to deal with it. I gotta shake it. I gotta go in there and do what I do.”
Smith, understandably, took his championship bout with Jones as a fight for his legacy, which caused him to ramp up his self-induced pressure. That approach didn’t pay off, and while Smith is not the first to have a less-than-stellar performance against Jones and won’t be the last, that knowledge doesn’t make the unanimous-decision defeat any easier to take.
“This one’s about me,” Smith said. “If you really listened to the buildup to the Jon fight, it was about the title and goddamn I just want it so (expletive) bad, and it was about making my family proud and making their sacrifice worth it, and it was about my kids and when they look back it was worth it for them and whatever. It was about so many other things, and there was so much going on, and I just wanted everyone to be so happy, you know?”
So that’s why Smith was willing to fight on a short turnaround, against a dangerous foe in three-time title challenger Gustafsson (18-5 MMA, 10-5 UFC), and on the latter’s home turf, to boot.
“Obviously I like to fight,” Smith said. “He’s a big name, he’s the top dude you can get, you know what I mean? So that’s not a terrible bonus. But I don’t care who it is, I just want to fight. Had I been doing this early in my career, I would have done this on some bullshit regional show (with) no money at all just to get it out. But fortunately I’m not on the regional scene, and the paychecks aren’t terrible, and the stage is big, and the bonus that I’ll get will be great, but I just need to get in there, that’s it.”
That attitude is reflected in the fact Smith, when pressed, refuses to make any excuses for the way the Jones fight panned out.
“I don’t want to makes excuses. I’ve got a pretty good idea, but, you know, I just don’t want to make excuses. I’m not going to be that guy, you know. I don’t want to be Alex, and ‘I’m not going to make any excuses but this, this, this, this, and this.’ I’m not going to be that guy. I’ve got a pretty good read on it, and it’s just not going to happen again. It’s just not. I can’t let it happen again. I’d rather go out on my sword than let that happen again.”
UFC on ESPN+ 11 takes place Saturday at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm. The event streams on ESPN+.
News | MMA Junkie