Anthony Smith perseveres, gets UFC title fight vs. Jon Jones

Updated February 28, 2019 - 8:00 pm

UFC light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith is one of the few challengers to shy away from personal attacks before fighting beleaguered champion Jon Jones.

While Smith insists he’s never been much of a strategist, there’s no question his lack of oral jabs is by design.

“It’s low-hanging fruit, for sure,” Smith said. “But it’s just a distraction. I know that if I’m worried about what Jon Jones is doing on Saturday and Sunday, I’m not focused on what he’s doing on Monday through Friday to get ready for the weekend. I don’t care what he does in his personal life, I don’t care what his relationship is like, I don’t care how much partying he does or if he drives (drunk).

“Those other guys got so blinded by their hate for him that they just couldn’t see past it to see how good he is as an athlete.”

Smith will challenge Jones for his title in the main event of UFC 235 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, but oddsmakers don’t give him much of a chance. Smith probably will enter the octagon as at least a 6-1 underdog.

But the 30-year-old has overcome longer odds to make it to this point. A high school dropout raised by a single mother in small-town Nebraska City, Smith fought in strip clubs and barns to pick up extra money after spending his days as a concrete finisher.

Smith showed flashes of greatness but was inconsistent in starting his career 5-6. He admits he was more concerned with having a good time then, which explains why he’s reluctant to criticize Jones.

“What kind of person would I be to be standing in a glasshouse throwing stones?” Smith said. “I’m not going to chastise Jon Jones for doing things I used to do. I’ve said several times this week that 10 years ago Jon Jones is someone I would have loved to hang out with. That’s just not my life anymore. It’s not who I am. I think we all change over time. He’ll deal with his problems when he wants to on his own time.”

For Smith, that time came when he became a father. He and his wife welcomed their first of three daughters in 2011 and life has been different since. So has his career.

“I think once someone needed me, it put everything into perspective for me and forced me to grow up,” he said. “It just changed who I was as a person. That definitely benefited my fight career. Now I have mouths to feed and people to support.”

Smith started getting better results and eventually made it to the UFC for one fight in 2013. He lost when he was injured defending a submission attempt and was released from his contract.

He returned to the regional circuit before re-signing with the UFC in 2016 and has won 14 of his past 16 fights, including victories over former champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and contender Volkan Oezdemir.

“I’ve had my struggles and my hard times,” Smith said. “I think the fans can feel that, too. I think that’s why people are excited for this fight. I’m never going to fault a guy for having a ton of natural ability. Jon was just born good at this. I’m not saying he hasn’t worked hard, but he’s just a natural. I don’t think the average person can relate to that. That’s not how the world is for most people. I think that’s why people are drawn to me, because I’m just a regular person.”

More MMA: Follow at CoveringTheCage.com and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

Covering The Cage Videos
UFC 236 Press Conference Highlights
UFC 236 will feature a pair of interim title fights. In the main event, UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway will face lightweight contender Dustin Poirier and middleweights Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum will collide in the co-main event. UFC 236 will take place in Atlanta, Ga., on Apr. 13.
Jon Jones retains light heavyweight belt at UFC 235 - VIDEO
Jon Jones retained the UFC light heavyweight belt when he earned a decision over Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC 235.
Kamaru Usman crowned new champ at UFC 235 — VIDEO
Kamaru Usman became the first African-born fighter to claim a UFC belt when he defeated Tyron Woodley to become the promotion's new welterweight champion.
UFC 235 Official Weigh-in Results - VIDEO
All 24 fighters competing at UFC 235 at the T-Mobile Arena on March 2 stepped on the scale prior for the official fight card weigh-ins. All four fighters competing in the title bouts slated for the event made weight.
UFC's Jones says he has no shame after recent drug test results are released - VIDEO
Though recent drug test results still show trace amounts of Turinabol in his system, UFC light heayvweight champion Jon Jones says he has no shame and is hiding nothing as he prepares for his UFC 235 title bout against Anthony Smith.
Anthony Smith stays level-headed prior to UFC 235 title fight - VIDEO
Despite UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones being in the spotlight for drug test discrepancies and other outside the cage struggles, Anthony Smith says he is tuning out the noise and remaining focused on the challenge of beating the reigning champion in the cage.
UFC 235 Media Day Highlights
Highlights and staredowns from the top three fights on the UFC 235 fight card taking place at the T-Mobile Arena on March 2.
UFC 235 press conference highlights
UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman have a heated exchange and Ben Askren enjoys his time on the stage by interacting with UFC president Dana White.
UFC president Dana White talks UFC 235 and more
UFC president Dana White joined Heidi Fang and Adam Hill to discuss the UFC 235 card set for Las Vegas on Mar. 2 at the T-Mobile Arena and also spoke on Colby Covington and Khabib Nurmagomedov's and Conor McGregor's disciplinary measures given by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Full version available on Facebook at Review-Journal Sports
Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman Have Heated Exchange At UFC 235 Presser - VIDEO
UFC 235 opened with Jon Jones returning after his meeting at the Nevada Athletic commission, Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman arguing on stage and Ben Askren making his UFC debut.
NAC Chairman says it's time to tone down MMA smack talk ahead of fights
After announcing the fines and suspensions given to Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov for their involvement in a melee at UFC 229 in Las Vegas, Nevada Athletic Commission Chairman Anthony Marnell said it may be time to address "mouthy fighters" smack talk and conduct leading up to a fight.
Jones, NAC Chairman issue statements following Jones' licensing approval for UFC 235
The Nevada Athletic Commission issued UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones a conditional one-fight license to compete at UFC 235 taking place at the T-Mobile Arena on Mar. 2. Jones had to reapply for a license in Nevada after failing a drug test which led to UFC 232 being moved from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, California.
UFC donates $240,000 to Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada
UFC presents Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada with $240,000 donation and promises to grant more wishes as the partnership goes forward.
Benavidez on his new contract, future of the UFC flyweight division
UFC flyweight Joseph Benavidez, who is booked to fight Dustin Ortiz at UFC Fight Night 143 on ESPN Plus, discusses his role as an alternate for the title fight between T.J. Dillashaw and Henry Cejudo, his new 4-fight contract and the future of the 125-pound division.
Covering the Cage: Jones, Nunes win at UFC 232
Amanda Nunes defeats Cyborg in the women's featherweight division and Jon Jones returns to UFC as the light heavyweight champion. Covering the Cage host Heidi Fang and Adam Hill recap the UFC 232 main and co main events.
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing