Two victories in the span of about three weeks pushed Anthony Smith’s current win streak to eight consecutive fights and gave the former Nebraska City grappler his first triumph in the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
Smith, also known by his MMA moniker of “The Lionheart” won on a technical knockout (punches) during Victory Fighting Championships 47 at Omaha’s Baxter Arena on Jan. 29.
After that bout, Smith jumped into more training in the hopes of getting a call from the UFC and its famed president Dana White for an opportunity on MMA’s biggest stage.
Smith traveled with his coach to Ireland while waiting for the call, not knowing when it might come, but knowing that he had to be ready.
A nine-day training camp for Smith was hosted by Straight Blast Gym, known simply as SBG. The Ireland mixed martial arts academy and fight team is known as one of the most successful in Europe and is home to superstar Conor McGreggor, who is currently the UFC Featherweight Champion.
Smith returned to the states on a Friday. The UFC called on Monday.
“The timing was kind of perfect,” said Smith. “I wasn’t fight training, but I was in decent shape. They called and I didn’t hesitate.”
Five days later, Smith was at the weigh-in for the Feb. 21 fight in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The result, a unanimous decision, was something that Smith had been working for since suffering a June 8, 2013, set back in a UFC bout in Ceara, Brazil.
Later that same year, Dec. 14, 2013, Smith lost to Josh Neer at VFC 41.
It was a victory over Neer at VFC 47 that preceeded Smith’s UFC win, providing a double-shot of vindication.
That had to be satisfying for Smith, but he’s not resting on his laurels at this point.
Smith was critical of his own performance in the UFC win. After a first round that went according to plan, Smith said he wasn’t able to keep up the fight pace as he would have liked due to fatigue.
That might have been due to the weight cut, 30 pounds in five days, that preceeded the short notice UFC bout, but Smith said it could have been partly due to the fact that he hasn’t had as many decision fights, like three in about 30 total bouts, that called his cardio into question.
Regardless, Smith is addressing both causes by finding the right professional trainer and nutritionist to push his game to the next level.
When given advanced notice, Smith said he can get down to whatever weight he needs to get down to, but the UFC might not afford him notice. And he doesn’t want to let any opportunities get past him.
“I just don’t want to leave any stone unturned,” said Smith.
In terms of raw skill and technical ability, Smith feels confident that he can be a match to any opponent. The cardio and nutrition components will make him a complete fighter.
Looking forward, Smith said his team is targeting a possible UFC fight in May with the idea of taking a break afterwards to enjoy some time with his family.
“I have been grinding hard to get back to the UFC,” Smith said. The fighter said that has meant constant training and fights without breaks for recovery.
A summer of family activities and a vacation would help to recharge Smith. Fight obligations have taken Smith away from family time. His family has been supportive and now Smith would like to reward them.
While his family has made sacrifices, Smith’s fans have been treated to great matches and wins.
Through his fighting, Smith said its been a great honor to entertain fans and represent them well in the cage.
“That is so cool—that people just care,” Smith said. “It’s such a humbling thing.”