“Lionheart”, a former 185-pound fighter who became a light heavyweight contender overnight with three straight wins in 2018 that set up a championship bout with Jon Jones this past March, was cordial at the UFC’s seasonal press conference in Atlanta on Friday when it came to discussing his upcoming matchup with Alexander Gustafsson.
A two-time UFC title challenger himself, Gustafsson recently said on The MMA Hour that a loss to Smith would have him questioning his own future in the sport. Smith shrugged off the comments, interpreting them as Gustafsson simply mulling over where his career is headed given that there are new contenders at 205 pounds.
“You know, when you read it in print, it sounds like shit,” Smith said. “But if you actually listen to the interview, I don’t think he’s really taking a shot at me. I think he’s probably in a similar place as a lot of people. He’s trying to figure out where his career’s at. He’s had several shots at the title and hasn’t been able to get it done and if he can’t hang around at the top of the division, which is where I’m at, there’s other things out there.”
When it came to Rockhold though, Smith was singing a different tune.
Smith immediately bristled when he was asked about criticisms made by Rockhold, who previously claimed that he didn’t understand how Smith even received a UFC title shot in the first place.
“That guy’s a f*ckin’ piece of shit,” Smith said. “F*ck Luke Rockhold. The first opportunity I get, I’m going to drill a hole through Luke Rockhold’s f*ckin’ face. I promise you guys that.”
Rockhold, a former UFC middleweight champion, is scheduled to make his light heavyweight debut against Jan Blachowicz at UFC 239 in July. Meanwhile, Smith, who lost a five-round unanimous decision to Jones at UFC 235, must first get past Gustafsson in the main event of UFC Stockholm on June 1 before even considering his next booking.
A win over the longtime contender would go a long way towards proving that Smith’s three-fight win streak against Volkan Oezdemir, Mauricio Rua, and Rashad Evans, was not just a matter of fortuitous matchmaking. And if Rockhold still doubts him after that, then Smith is definitely willing to shut him up in person.
“The first opportunity that I get after this fight, it doesn’t matter what happens, I’ll fight Luke Rockhold with one f*cking leg,” Smith said. “I’m going to beat that dude’s f*cking ass.”