Why Anthony Smith thinks his April fight will happen, still targets Jon Jones


Former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Anthony Smith is scheduled to face Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night on April 25 in his backyard of Lincoln, Nebraska. The UFC has not announced any changes to that card, but all future events are subject to change because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Smith (33-14) originally planned to train for the fight in Denver and Kansas City, Missouri, but he is currently stuck in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, due to travel restrictions and gym closures.

The 31-year-old spoke to ESPN about how he’s preparing for the fight under these unique circumstances and his thoughts on the UFC’s efforts to continue promoting fights during these uncertain times.

Editor’s note: The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

“My team here in Nebraska is pretty small, so it’s easy to keep it under [the federal recommendation] of 10 people. My kids are out of school; their schools are shut down for six-to-eight weeks, so my wife is probably going crazy. I’m like her fourth kid.

“I try not to get too wrapped up in the news because it seems like a lot of fear, and I’m not really into fear. I’ll listen to the facts, but I’m not hanging on every word because it seems like a lot of unnecessary negativity. And as far as the sport, it’s kind of dark. It’s kind of scary. [UFC president] Dana White called my manager Thursday and, first and foremost, wanted us to know if we needed anything or if anyone got sick, he would make sure we were taken care of. Of course, our next question was about the fight.

“He’s very, very serious. He knows I’ve been coming off two surgeries and been out 10 months — and a lot of stuff goes with that — and he told me not to pull my foot off the gas. It was laced with a lot of curse words, obviously, everybody knows Dana White. He knows I’m going to be turning the corner soon and peaking, and he told me to continue. There weren’t a whole lot of details, not a lot of answers, just: ‘You’re fighting. Keep your foot on the gas.’

“April 25 I’m not so sure about, but I’m pretty confident it’s going to happen around that time. The confidence Dana had makes me confident. If anybody in sports in general can get this done, I think it’s Dana.

“The money situation is very stressful. I’ve been out 10 months with two surgeries. I have three kids and a wife and a mother-in-law to take care of. On average, each training camp costs me, like, $20,000. I get it. From the outside, people say, ‘His fight got canceled. They’re gonna postpone it. He’ll still get a fight, and he’ll still get paid.’ But if you do an eight-week camp, and the last two weeks, your fight gets canceled, you still spent that $20,000. If they push it back six weeks, you have to spend another $10,000 to $15,000 to get back to where you were. That’s frustrating. A lot of people in the media are saying, ‘Why is UFC still running fights?’ What are we supposed to do? We don’t get paid if we don’t fight. And there’s a lot of bashing the promotions, and I don’t think that’s fair, either. This is the model we’ve always been paid on, and I’ve never asked for a dollar I wasn’t owed. We’re not a season sport. It would be a big change and hard to figure out how to pay us when we’re not fighting and then pay us when we fight. That doesn’t make sense.



Anthony Smith explains his relentless pursuit of Jon Jones and gives his perspective on the outlook and current state of the light heavyweight division in the UFC.

“This is how we’ve always been paid. Nobody expects to be paid when they’re not doing anything. And I bet you, a lot of guys aren’t talking about it, but I would almost bet my life these guys [from this weekend’s canceled UFC event] are being taken care of by the UFC because you don’t see a lot of people complaining about not getting paid. (There has been no public comment from the UFC about compensation for fighters on the canceled March 21 card).

“I’ll be happy to fight if it’s not in Lincoln, but I’ll also be extremely disappointed. This might be my last chance to fight in my home state. I’ve been through so many ups and downs in my career, and some of the most defining moments happened in Lincoln. I can remember fighting in Lancaster Events Center — this big building with a dirt floor — they just threw a cage up in the middle. This is a place they show livestock. I was an amateur and fought this long-haired, hippie guy, Jeremy Shepherd. He just beat the hell out of me. And I remember thinking then, ‘I don’t know if this is for me.’ Then I rematched him two or three months later, same building, same promotion, and head-kick knocked him out.

“That was the moment I realized this sport is different. One fight to the next can be a totally different story. And I think that’s why I’ve been able to take a lot of my losses so well is from those two fights with Jeremy Shepherd. Just because I lost the one fight, that doesn’t define the rest of my career. After that fight, that’s how it was. I was like, ‘I suck.’ It sounds silly, but I always go back to that. I wasn’t even in competition with Jeremy Shepherd. It wasn’t even close. But in a couple months’ time, I figured it out. That’s how I’ve approached [losing to Jon Jones in 2019]. It’s going to look different [the next time].

“Even if Dominick Reyes had beat Jon Jones in February, I’d still want to fight Jon Jones because it’s become that personal to me. If he goes to heavyweight, there’s no one stopping me from taking the light heavyweight title if he vacates it. And if he goes to heavyweight, I’ll follow him. That’s just how it is. I haven’t been out here in the media ringing that bell because I know I need another win first. And I’m OK with that.”

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