Devonte Smith’s first business trip outside of the U.S. was an eventful one.
Whisked away to Melbourne, Australia, Smith scored his fourth straight first-round KO by putting away Dong Hyun Ma at UFC 234 on Feb. 10, a win that headlined the ESPN preliminaries. He improved to 2-0 in the UFC (plus a win on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series) and also picked up his first Performance of the Night bonus.
The only downside was the long travel time, which wreaked havoc on the 25-year-old lightweight. He’s not looking forward to another grueling overseas flight, unless it’s for an opponent that he’s specifically targeting: in this case, Francisco Trinaldo. Smith called out the Brazilian veteran following his win over Ma, and he’d gladly go to Trinaldo’s home country to make that fight happen.
“110 thousand million billion percent, yeah,” Smith recently told MMA Fighting when asked if he’d consider going to Rio de Janeiro for UFC 237 on May 11 for Trinaldo. “I gotta do what I gotta do to get to where I gotta get. But if they’re telling me I gotta fight some guy I didn’t call out or some guy that nobody really knows, but you gotta come out to Brazil to fight him, ‘Naw, I’m cool. Give that to somebody else, I’m straight. I just came from Australia.’”
Smith’s desire to fight Trinaldo is strictly business. From his perspective, the oddsmakers have been counting him out ever since he took on Joseph Lowry on the Contender Series, and he’s used every fight since to prove them wrong.
A matchup with Trinaldo, a veteran with 18 UFC appearances on his resume, is one that Smith believes will vault him from prospect to contender.
“I was the underdog [against Lowry]. I beat him in about three minutes,” Smith said. “Alright, people like, ‘Okay, cool. Maybe that guy had an off day.’ At my debut, I beat [Julian Erosa] in 46 seconds and he had way more fights than me. And he’d been [on The Ultimate Fighter]. Okay, they lookin’ at me a little bit more, but they like, ‘I don’t know.’ I go to Dong Hyun Ma, take him out in less than four minutes. So people are starting to actually, like, ‘Okay, I’m really starting to believe this is just what he does.’ And it is! I always tell people I’ve been KO’ing and finishing people since I started fighting in my amateur career.
“So me calling out Trinaldo, he’s a big, stocky, explosive guy, not only am I challenging myself, I’m ready to show all my skill set. It really doesn’t matter what rank you are, what’s your body type, what you do, how you do, where you train, your upbringing. You sign that contract, I’m beatin’ yo ass and I’m winning. Excuse my language, but I’m just being straightforward. And he’s a great matchup for me.”
Smith has kept a steady schedule as a pro, averaging three fights a year since 2016. With a six-fight win streak and a $50,000 bonus check in hand, it would be understandable if he afforded himself some time off.
He just might take it too, unless the right opportunity comes along sooner rather than later. And whether that’s Trinaldo or someone else, Smith is not going to rush into making a decision.
“Rest is a part of training, so I’m going to take my break,” Smith said. “I rest for at least three, four weeks tops — sometimes I don’t even rest a whole four because I’m still training, but I’m not going as hard. I go hard when I come out to Colorado, when I’m in Cleveland I’m just staying in shape and I’m enjoying my life and resting. If I get another fight in two months, that’s cool; if I get another fight in three months, that’s cool.
“But if I have to fight sooner, I will be in shape, but it has to be a smart move. It has to make sense. Because I’m not out here fighting just to fight. It’s got to make financial sense. It’s got to make career sense and it just has to make sense in general or I’m not doing it. I’m humble enough to be like, ‘Naw, I don’t want to take that fight.’ I don’t care if people look down on me for not taking this fight or that fight. They ain’t the one in there fighting and I get nothing but positive support, but I know there’s people out there — I just know how it is, I know how it works, and I’m just doing me. Because when I do me, I do great things.”