A knee injury prevented Anthony Smith from a potential rematch against Aleksandar Rakic in December and now the one-time title challenger is concerned he may end up as the odd man out at light heavyweight.
As he continues to rehabilitate after surgery and a staph infection, Smith is currently targeting an early 2022 return to action. He hoped a showdown against former champion Jan Blachowicz might await him, believing Rakic would compete again sooner rather than later.
Now, those plans may have changed as Smith anticipates that the UFC may book Blachowicz vs. Rakic, making him the odd man out.
“I’m afraid because I’m indifferent [about who I fight next], I’m going to get left out in the cold,” Smith said during an appearance on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “It would be a real sh*tty deal if Jiri Prochazka gets the title shot and then Rakic and Blachowicz fight each other and that kind of leaves me sitting out with my hands out.”
While there’s not much he can do regarding the UFC’s matchmaking decisions, Smith is admittedly upset about the situation because he’s heard that Rakic has turned down multiple opponents.
“I know for a fact he’s turned down several fights since his last fight with Thiago Santos,” Smith said. “It would be super unfortunate if Rakic gets to sit around and turn down the fights he doesn’t like and gets the biggest fight available in the division. That would hurt my feelings, to be honest with you, especially being a guy that takes every single fight offered and the ones that nobody wants.
“Nobody wants to fight Ryan Spann. It’s a tough out. He’s just tough. Whether you think you’re better than him in every aspect of the game, he has that equalizer right hand that just changes the whole trajectory of the fight. Jimmy Crute is not a fun fight. There’s nothing fun about that dude. There’s nothing fun preparing for that dude, and I mean that with the utmost respect because of how tough he is. No one wants to fight Devin Clark, cause it’s just a tough fight for no reason. You don’t get a lot out of it, and it’s a tough ass dude.”
Smith has chased the Rakic rematch ever since he lost a unanimous decision to the Austrian fighter in August 2020.
As much as he wants that fight, the 33-year-old light heavyweight can’t help but notice the value that comes along with a matchup against Blachowicz.
“Listen, I’ve got a lot of respect for Aleksandar Rakic and what he’s done and I have a lot of respect for his skills and abilities, but he’s not that well-liked,” Smith explained. “He’s not the UFC’s favorite guy. Beating him is kind of its own reward, personally. Because I’m not sure how highly people, the powers-that-be, would look upon that win. Because he’s not super exciting for as big as an athlete as he is, and impressive as his physique is, he doesn’t fight like that. So he doesn’t have a fan appealing style.
“The people in his home country love the hell out of the guy, but everyone else can kind of take him or leave him. The win over Blachowicz looks better. The Rakic one makes me feel better.”
Despite his current three-fight winning streak, Smith sees the scenario playing out where he’s going to end up facing a different opponent while Blachowicz and Rakic meet to potentially determine a new No. 1 contender at light heavyweight.
Of course, Smith knows there might not be much sympathy for his plight, but he can’t help but express his frustration when missing out on two huge fights that may no longer be available.
“As much as my feelings and the fans and the listeners and people out there don’t give a sh*t how I feel, it would suck to guys rewarded with huge opportunities and have title fight implications attached to those opportunities, and not do the things that I’ve done,” Smith said.
“That sucks. We’ll just have to see what happens. We’ll have to wait and see. It’s a waiting game, and I’m not real good at the waiting part.”