Louis Smolka doesn’t plan on leaving Las Vegas this time around without competing inside the octagon first.
Smolka is scheduled to face Jose Quinonez at this Saturday’s UFC Vegas 16 event in a matchup that was originally supposed to take place a little less than one month ago. The fight was cancelled hours before UFC Vegas 14 was scheduled to begin when he was pulled due to being “deemed medically unfit” to compete, according to the promotion.
The morning before UFC Vegas 14, “Da Last Samurai” stepped on the scales at 139 pounds, three pounds over the non-title bantamweight limit.
“The weight cut, I just mistimed it,” Smolka told MMA Fighting. “I put on some extra muscle and it was my fault. I didn’t start dieting soon enough. The last time I made weight really, really fast, so I thought it was going to be the same process, and I guess I put on that muscle and [the weight] wouldn’t come off. If I had a little more time I probably could’ve done it. I just ran out of time.”
It was the second time Smolka missed weight in his UFC career; his first came almost six years before to the day in November 2014. At the time, the Team Oyama fighter was competing in the flyweight division.
The 29-year-old was briefly released by the UFC following a four-fight losing streak, but he was brought back less than one year later after picking up three straight finishes on the regional scene. Since then, Smolka has competed as a 135-pound bantamweight and is 2-2 in his second tenure with the promotion.
Although he missed weight three weeks ago, Smolka is adamant it wasn’t related to his efforts in getting to the limit.
“I came in heavy, but I thought it was gonna be fine because I was dropping off pretty rapidly,” he explained. “I think I weighed Monday at 155 [pounds], Tuesday at 152, Wednesday I was like 147, Thursday I was like 145. So I thought, ‘It’s 10 pounds, nothing major.’
“Thursday night when the cut started, usually I’m able to drop five pounds in an hour. I got in the sauna for 90 minutes and I only lost three pounds. I was like, ‘What the f*ck.’ I rehydrated a little bit because that’s my process, and I woke up (Friday) and I was 144. It was weird. I ended up going in the sauna again for like three hours, I got out and I was like 140, 141. I’m like, ‘Oh, my god! This is not even close. What is going on?’
“I was sweating the whole time, but maybe with the portable saunas the sweats aren’t as thick. I mean, I was hot, but I wasn’t really sure what was going on. It was taking forever, I was starting to dry out, and we needed to switch methods. I started running, opened up, sweat was dripping, and I just ran out of time. I wasn’t close enough to keep cutting, so it was like, ‘Sorry, dude.’”
Smolka was still ready to compete despite losing 20 percent of his purse to Quinonez for the mishap on the scale. While the weight cut seemed to be an anomaly, so was his fight day as he began to fall ill hours before he was set to make the walk to the octagon for the 15th time.
“With the fight getting pulled, I’m not really sure what happened,” Smolka said. “I just started throwing up my breakfast and lunch, and I was gagging, burping, and it was just weird. We ended up calling the doctor, and he took my EKG, my pulse, and it was all kind of weird. They said, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna pull you. Something’s up.’
“They thought it was food poisoning. I went back home, and we never had the chance to really follow up on it. I was just like, ‘If I get worse, we’ll figure it out then. If I get better, I think it’s food poisoning.’ I guess I just had some bad food, I don’t know.”
With the help of recent flyweight title challenger, teammate and coach Alex Perez, Smolka successfully stepped on the scale Friday morning, coming in a shade under at 134.5 pounds.
In his most recent appearance, Smolka was submitted in the first round by Casey Kenney at UFC on ESPN 9, a fight both competitors took on less than two weeks’ notice. Quinonez is also looking to bounce back from a first-round stoppage loss loss to Sean O’Malley at UFC 248 in March.
While Smolka believes he’s the superior fighter, he’s not taking Quinonez lightly.
“It’s a winnable fight because I believe I’m better than him, but I definitely wouldn’t consider him a bounce back fight,” he said. “I want to get a finish, I want to get a submission. A knockout would be cool, too, but I just want to win. I don’t really care how I get it done, I just want to win.”