Smith faced off against Ankalaev in the main card opener for UFC 277, breaking his leg at the end of the first round. Though he tried to fight through the injury, Smith was unable to and was subsequently stopped by strikes in the second frame of the contest. In the aftermath, many suggested Ankalaev caused the fracture either by checking a leg kick or landing one of his own, but “Lionheart” insists it was just a bad break.
“There’s no way that break was caused from a kick,” Smith said on the Believe You Me podcast. “From where it is, it’s not something — from outward trauma, you’re not going to break that bone. So they don’t actually know when it happened. It could have been me stepping back funny on it ... [or] right before he kicked me and my leg went numb, I was stepping on his foot. So we were having that lead foot battle and it happened twice.
“I stepped on his foot and he pulled it out, and then it drug my body forward and my ankle kind of went all funny. Then right after that, he banged that inside kick real hard. So it’s something like that. I know in the media and whatever, it’s been reported it was from a kick. It’s 100-percent not. It’s not from a kick. It’s just f****** s*** luck.”
It’s an unfortunate injury for Smith, who is coming off recovering from a separate leg injury prior to this one and was one a roll in the division, having won three fights in a row heading into UFC 277. Now, Smith needs to have surgery which will keep him sidelined for an indeterminate amount of time, especially given the uniqueness of the injury.
“It’s in such a weird spot, they can’t even plate it,” Smith said. “Pins and screws. It’s in a weird spot. It’s a medial malleolus break. ... There’s another bone that’s dislocated, that won’t go back in until they fix it. It’s not like a typical combat sports break. It’s a weird break. Dr. [Jeffrey Davidson, medical adviser for the UFC] said in 29 years, he’s never seen it in combat sports. It’s in my ankle, but it’s a continuation of my leg bone, into my ankle.”
Smith said he hopes to be able to recover in a few months, at least to the point of being able to return to the gym.
Mostly though, he wants to heal as quickly as possible so he can get back into the cage and get another shot at Ankalaev, because despite losing to him at UFC 277, Smith still isn’t buying the Ankalaev hype train.
“Nothing he did surprised me,” Smith said. “I think I expected him to be better. He wasn’t as good as I expected him to be. He wasn’t as big as I expected him to be either.
“I don’t want to take anything from him, because at the end of the day his body held up better than mine did, but it’s not like he did anything to me that broke my ankle. I kind of did it to myself. And he’s good, but that fight didn’t prove anything I said before wrong. He’s not that f****** guy, like I said he wasn’t. He’s not the bogeyman in the division
“I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy but I feel like he’s going to have a tough time with some of those guys at the top. He’s going to have a tough time.”