He just wasn’t one of them.
While there were cries of bad refereeing or poor judgment on the part of his coaches to allow him to continue, Smith actually had no problem with the decisions made on his behalf despite absorbing a great deal of punishing during the last 10 plus minutes in the fight.
“I’m not a victim,” Smith told MMA Fighting on Wednesday. “That’s what I want people to know. I put myself in this position on purpose. That’s all I want people to know. It’s not that I don’t care that they were upset about it or that I don’t care that they care. I love it.
“I love the responses that I’ve gotten that it was hard to watch and that they love me and they want me to keep fighting. I love it. I appreciate it It’s humbling. I just don’t want it to be this narrative that I’m the victim because I’m not.”
According to Smith, he’s been instructing his coaches for several years that they are not allowed to stop his fights by throwing in the towel no matter the circumstances.
He also speaks extensively with the referee in all of his fights to understand the commands they will give him before issuing a stoppage.
For those reasons alone, Smith was completely satisfied with the stoppage in his fight with Teixeira and he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I’m good with it. That’s the way that I wanted it to pan out,” Smith said. “I know that people online are going crazy right now and I think that’s for a couple different reasons. I have some theories on why it bothers people so much but I put myself in that position on purpose by having the rule where my corners aren’t allowed to stop the fight and by making sure that I know the referee’s commands and what it’s going to sound like before he stops the fight and what I need to do, by what I told the doctor. Everything worked perfect.
“That’s exactly how I hoped it was going to work someday if I ended up in that position and it did exactly that. My corners were handcuffed and couldn’t stop the fight. I know what to say to the doctor. I’ve been doing this a long time. I know what the doctor needs to hear to continue a fight. And I knew exactly what the ref needed cause I handcuff the ref before the fight. I’ve been doing that for the past five or six years.”
Referee Jason Herzog has received a barrage of criticism for allowing Smith continue after he was knocked down and blitzed with punches in the third round and then faced more of the same in the fourth.
While it’s up to the referee to determine when a fight should be stopped, Smith refuses to place any blame on Herzog for the decisions he made that night.
“Ask any ref that’s ever reffed one of my fights,” Smith explained. “I do the same thing every time and I’m not doing that because I actually care. I’m doing it because I’m handcuffing you into your word. So I essentially handcuffed everyone into not being able to stop the fight and letting me do it on my own terms.
“I asked [Jason Herzog] specifically what it was going to sound like [when he’s going to stop the fight]. Now he has to abide by that. Now he has to keep his word cause that’s what he told me. Now he has to go through it no matter how he feels personally. I essentially take his feelings out of it. I take my corners’ feelings out of it and I know what to tell the doctor. I’m happy with it because that’s the way that I wanted it to go.”
If anyone deserves the blame for the way the fight ended, Smith puts the onus back on himself.
In fact, Smith says that he supports coaches who feel the need to stop a fight by throwing in the towel when an athlete should no longer continue. He just never wants to face that scenario in one of his fights.
“Put that on me,” Smith said. “Listen, I understand the fans’ side. I get it. It makes me look crazy. I’m not anti-stopping fights. I’m not against throwing in the towel. I’m not against cornermen stepping in and saying ‘that’s enough.’ I’m just against it for me. I personally would stop fights for people that I care about that I’m coaching. I would do that. I have no problem stepping in and stopping a fight and I think that it needs to happen more. Just not with me. I know that sounds nuts.
“I say all the time, I’m going to be a world champion or die trying. That’s not a soundbite. So people think that I’m saying it because I want to sound cool. I live that life. The only reason you guys know about it now is because a situation came up where it came into play or else no one would have ever known. That’s been the rule for more than a handful of years. That’s always been the rule.”
For all the complaints lodged against the referee or his coaches, Smith knows that deep down people are just showing concern for his health and well being.
“All of me appreciates it,” Smith said candidly. “I think that’s getting missed. People are missing that part of it. I’m not unappreciative of you caring.
“I’m just trying to explain to people, it’s not that I don’t care. It’s not even that I don’t expect people to feel the way that they feel. I’m not trashing you for feeling that way. I’m just explaining to you that it’s this way on purpose. That I’m not a victim.”
When the fight did finally end, Smith walked away with a number of injuries including a broken nose, a fractured orbital bone and two broken teeth. A few days later, the former light heavyweight title contender is already on the mend with no surgeries required to repair the damage, just some much needed time off.
Going forward, Smith hopes he can return to action by September but don’t expect his demeanor to change based on the outcome in this particular fight.
He still wants to have every opportunity to forge ahead under the worst of circumstances. Smith won’t allow his coaches to stop the fight and he’ll absolutely engage in a thorough pre-fight conversation with the referee to ensure he knows exactly what’s required for him to continue if things go wrong.
“The only thing I would ask is to be respectful of my decisions,” Smith said. “You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree with how I do things. You don’t have to agree with how my mind works. But that’s why you’re the fan and I’m a fighter. Where our brains just work differently and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way.
“Some of the same fans that are attacking me because of how my fight went are the same ones that were cheering and going crazy in their living rooms when Ben Askren got flatlined by [Jorge] Masvidal or their favorite fight in the world is Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald. If you’re not OK with the way my fight went, then you shouldn’t have been OK with the way Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald’s fight went because the effects on the brain are similar and I would argue that theirs was much worse than mine.”