Santa Claus is coming to give some presents.
That’s Aleksandar Rakic’s reply to Anthony Smith, who called him out this past Saturday after UFC Vegas 37 and replied “Merry Christmas to me” when informed the European heavyweight had given the thumbs up on Twitter.
There are some asterisks for this St. Nick, however. If Rakic is going to take a rematch against an opponent that will keep him active but won’t improve his ranking, it needs to be now so he can be ready for a possible title fight next year.
“If the UFC wants the rematch, it needs to be a main event, Dec. 18, and after this, I’m going to get my title shot,” Rakic said on The MMA Hour. “This is what I want. The Smith rematch is not a problem for me. I can dominate everybody in the division, so I respect him as a fighter. He did a great job. He improved a lot after our last fight.”
One big reason Rakic respects Smith is that he was direct about a callout, which he said hasn’t been the case for much of his UFC career. His most recent troubles came from red-hot contender Jiri Prochazka, whom he said avoided a fight between them to serve as a back up for the Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira fight that will headline UFC 267 next month.
If Smith wants to fight, Rakic is ready.
“Sometimes, I’ve felt a little bit like Kamaru Usman before he was champion,” he said. “First of all, they said he goes to decisions and he’s a boring fighter, and then he beats Woodley and becomes the champion, and he’s taking all the. hats off. Now, everybody’s respecting him. I will do this soon, and Smith will be the first one.
“I checked the card, and there’s no main event yet for [Dec. 18]. I think he’s also ready to go. [Smith] said already, ‘Merry Christmas,’ so it needs to be then.”
Reached for comment by MMA Fighting, Smith was open to the idea.
“I accept your acceptance,” he said. “I love the fight, and let’s let the UFC work out a date.”
Rakic hasn’t forgotten about Prochazka, who’s rocketed to the top of the division on the strength of back-to-back knockouts of one-time title challengers Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes. Rakic said his European colleague hasn’t earned his spot.
“This guy, he doesn’t even know how to speak English proper,” Rakic said. “So I don’t know why, but this guy will come, and he will be forgotten, like many others. Like Johnny Walker, like Volkan Oezdemir. They get a big push from the UFC, they lose their fights, and nobody talks about them any more.”
Rakic said after the Blachowicz vs. Teixeira title bout was postponed from UFC 266 to UFC 267, he understood the UFC offered Prochazka a fight with him, but Prochazka instead chose to serve as the backup at UFC 267.
“[Prochazka] can sit and wait forever if he wants, but after I finish my business with Smith, I don’t know if this will be enough to sit around and wait for his title chance,” he said. “This guy fights once a year and gets a title shot. I know the UFC likes guys that are active. ... I challenged him for the last two, or three months.
“I am already better than all of those guys: Jan, Glover, Jiri. I’m going to beat all of them. It’s just a matter of time. I want to be the champion, and I want to beat the best, and the best are in the UFC.”
Right now, Rakic said his management is in talks with the UFC about his next fight. If he winds up facing Smith, he expects an improved and more aggressive opponent that will give him a challenge. Ultimately, though, he expects the same result.
“With all the respect, these guys who [Smith] beats, they’re not on my level,” Rakic said. “I am in the martial arts like 16 years now, I’ve faced so many different fighters. I am living this. He improved. The second fight, he won with a calf kick – do you know what I did to him with a calf kick? He realized, oh, this sh*t works.”