Actually, the former light heavyweight title contender recovered rather quickly from the fifth-round TKO, which then allowed him to make a relatively quick turn around to accept a fight against Aleksander Rakic at UFC Vegas 8 this weekend.
“I heal super quick,” Smith told MMA Fighting. “Honestly, I wasn’t even that sore after the fight. I keep telling people it’s not as bad as you thought it was. It really wasn’t. If you watch it without sound and you don’t listen to the commentators and you don’t listen to the shots landing … we were the second show to happen during the pandemic so it was all new to everybody. That’s what fights sound like all the time.
“At the time, you guys are just hearing it for the first time. But when you’re in there, that’s what they sound like each and every time. Especially the people at home, they’re going ‘Jesus Christ, someone stop this’ and I’m like what are you talking about? Those aren’t even hard shots. It’s just what it sounds like.”
While his body didn’t take all that much damage, Smith can’t deny that his performance that night still stings because he just didn’t show up with the same kind of ferocity that led him to four finishes over two former UFC champions and a pair of top contenders.
If there was a lone benefit that came from the loss it’s the mental shift that Smith felt in the aftermath of that night, which will only help him moving forward.
In fact, Smith says that’s the same way he feels after every loss he’s ever suffered and that usually means bad news for whoever he faces next.
“I’m telling you, this is going to sound nuts, too, but I wish I could have the same mentality I have going into my next fight after a loss going into every fight,” Smith explained. “That’s my goal right now. That’s what we’re trying to recreate. How do we keep the mentality that I have right now going into my next fight. Because I’m going to tell you that I feel exactly the same as I did with the [Alexander] Gustafsson fight. I don’t give a sh*t about Aleksander Rakic.
“It’s not about him. I couldn’t care less. I’ve never watched him fight. I sh*t you not, I’ve never seen Aleksander Rakic fight an entire fight. Never from beginning to end. I’ve seen clips obviously. We’ve been on the same cards together. He knocked out Jimi Manuwa the same night I was fighting Gustafsson so I catch it. But as far as sitting down and watching his fight, I’ve never watched him. I just don’t care. I’m focused on myself and it seems to be when I’m focused on myself and I’m not worried about what he’s going to do or where this puts me or what’s at stake, I don’t really give a sh*t. I don’t really feel any pressure. I’m like really excited and super pumped to get back in there.”
As odd as it might be to hear from a professional fighter, Smith says he’s at his best he’s not really concerned with wins and losses.
Instead, he prefers to look at every opponent as a challenge and the fight as an opportunity to put on a performance that shows off all the hard work he’s been doing in the gym. If the end result is a victory all the much better but as long as Smith does his absolute best without anything holding him back, he’ll be happy no matter what.
“When I care less, I’m really hard to beat,” Smith said. “When I don’t care about winning and losing, I don’t know what it is, it’s the weirdest thing in the world. When I went into the Gustafsson fight, you should have seen the looks on these people’s faces when I said I didn’t come here to win. I don’t know what you guys expect but I didn’t come here to win. That’s not my goal. It’s not about wins and losses when I was in Sweden. I just wanted to perform and get that bad feeling out of my stomach. I just wanted to throw the f**k down. That was it.
“That’s kind of similar how I am now. I’m not really focused on beating Rakic. Honestly, he’s super dangerous so that’s kind of fun for me. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m crazy. I really get excited when guys are really dangerous. I don’t know if it’s that adrenaline feeling or the fight itself, I don’t know. That’s really only the feelings I have towards him.”
That’s why Smith isn’t concerned with the questions that will surely come at him about bouncing back from his loss to Teixeira or putting himself back in the title talk conversation now that the UFC is about to crown a new light heavyweight champion in the wake of Jon Jones leaving the division.
Smith prefers to just focus on himself, his performance and putting his best foot forward. The rest is just white noise that he’s learning to filter out.
“I’m fresh out of f**ks to give and I couldn’t be happier,” Smith said. “I’m in such a good place right now. I’ve never lost two in a row in the UFC. It’s never happened and I think it’s because of this mindset I’m in right now. I am out of f**ks to give. I just want to go fight and have fun.
“When my back’s against the wall, is when I’m most dangerous. When I fail, I always bounce back stronger. Every time. I don’t expect this to be any different. I’m going to go in there and whatever happens, happens. I’m fairly unconcerned with the result. I’m focused on what happens between the bells. I don’t really care what happens after the last bell.”