Anthony Smith was surprised by some of the criticisms that he should have willingly accepted a disqualification against Jon Jones at UFC 235. But he was outright confused when he saw other fighters saying that, too.
It’s one thing for the fans or the media to say it. It was another for Smith to see that from his peers. “Lionheart” told MMA Fighting that he essentially thinks it’s disgraceful.
“I’m gonna sound very, very harsh saying this, but if you as an athlete have the balls to come to me face to face and say, ‘You should have taken the DQ and taken the easy way out,’ you’re a f*cking coward, too,” Smith said. “And the people that are giving me props and a pat on the back for doing the right thing, I really, really appreciate them wanting to take time out of their day wanting to appreciate someone with a high moral mindset. But I don’t need the pat on the back. I’ve never had anyone pat me on the back for anything I’ve ever done and I don’t need it now. I’m a self-motivated guy and I do things because that’s how I do it and I want to do the right thing.”
Smith, 30, caught a knee to the head from Jones in the main event of their UFC light heavyweight title fight earlier this month in Las Vegas. Smith had a hand down on the ground when the blow connected, making it illegal.
Referee Herb Dean halted the action and felt Jones’ blow was flagrant enough to take two points away, signifying he believed it to be an intentional foul. The ringside doctor came in to check on Smith and Smith said it was never even a consideration to stop fighting.
Had he been unable to continue, Smith would have been awarded the victory by disqualification, because Dean ruled it to be an intentional illegal strike. Smith would have been the light heavyweight champion and likely earned himself a big payday in a Jones rematch.
None of that ever crossed Smith’s mind, he said, and it still doesn’t, calling it the “easiest” possible decision to make in a fight.
“I was really shocked at some of the athletes that said if they were in my position they would have taken the easy way out,” Smith said. “Well, like, that’s why I’m f*cking here and they’re not. It’s the same thing for the fans that want to almost chastise me for not doing it, like telling me I’m stupid for not doing it. Well, that’s exactly why I’m the one fighting on pay-per-view and you’re sitting at home complaining about it.
“I didn’t see anything that looked completely intentional. I think it was careless. I think that Jon, historically, is a little bit careless. Just in general, Jon tends to be careless. But it didn’t look like he was maliciously trying to do something dirty. He just does his own thing and that’s who Jon is.”
What Smith (31-14) was — and is — more concerned about in the Jones fight was his performance. He still doesn’t quite have his brain wrapped around why he says he didn’t come to fight. Smith said he has watched the fight back nine times already and hasn’t really gained any more insight since that night.
“It’s just eating at me,” Smith said. “I just can’t figure out mentally what went wrong. I’ve never not performed in my whole life. And it’s just frustrating. I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I was just off my game. And some of that was Jon. He did some things that took me off my game. I don’t want to take anything away from Jon, but I truly believe that adding in Jon’s exceptional fighting ability, you add in the fact that I couldn’t pull the trigger. … I don’t know why. I thought maybe watching it, I would figure it out, but I just can’t.”
“Lionheart” will get right back on the horse. He takes on Alexander Gustafsson in the main event of UFC Stockholm on June 1 in Gustafsson’s home country of Sweden.
Initially, Smith said he didn’t want to do the fight so soon. This will be five fights in 16 months for him. And it’s especially hard because Smith leaves his family in Nebraska for his training camps with coach Marc Montoya at Factory X in Colorado.
But ultimately, fighting one of the best light heavyweights in the world and the ability to shake off the Jones loss was too good to pass up.
“I just can’t turn down an opportunity like that,” Smith said. “It sucks right now. I’m already like, ‘Fuck, in a few weeks we’ve gotta get after it again.’ That kind of sucks. But in a couple weeks I’ll feel better about it. And I knew that. I knew that if I would have turned down the opportunity, I would have regretted it in a few weeks.”
Smith feels he’ll have a “big advantage” fighting on Gustafsson’s turf. He said Gustafsson will have all the pressure on him and generally Smith feels he performs better when he’s away from home. Smith knocked out Mauricio Rua in Germany and submitted Volkan Oezdemir in Canada en route to his title shot.
The ultimate goal, though, is to get back to Jones. Or whoever is holding the 205-pound title. Jones might have won every round at UFC 235, but Smith still feels like he can beat him. And he expects to be back in that challenger position at some point, no matter what it takes.
“I just keep beating people and I think that I prove that,” Smith said. “I don’t give a shit what the UFC thinks about how I would do against Jon the second time. Eventually, if I just keep beating everyone, they’re gonna run out of people, you know what I mean? I’ll just keep knocking them off as I go. I’ll beat Gus and I’ll beat whoever is next and I’ll beat whoever is next. And then eventually, they’re not gonna have anyone else to turn to.”