EXCLUSIVE | Leslie Smith sees Rizin, Bellator and BKB as potential next steps in fighting career

Leslie Smith

Leslie Smith has been fighting professionally since 2009. However, the former UFC bantamweight contender hasn’t fought since July 2017. Smith, who is on a two-fight winning streak with victories over Irene Aldana and Amanda Lemos, was set to take on Aspen Ladd at UFC Fight Night 128 in April, but unfortunately, this plan was derailed.

At the weigh-ins for the fight, Ladd missed weight. With Ladd missing her mark, it was reported that she was offering Smith $5,000 dollars in addition to 20% of her purse as incentive to accept a catch weight. Unfortunately, the UFC then opted to pay Smith her show and win money and cancel the fight. Having been paid, Smith was then released by the UFC.

“It is not that they chose not to re-sign me, they actually cut me. A lot of the different articles aren’t understanding, when she missed weight, that meant the contract that we had signed was off. If I had just taken the fight, without any contract… what business person does that?” Leslie Smith told BJPENN.com “What happened was, I wanted to try and negotiate with the UFC to extend my contract to have more fights. They refused to negotiate with me, because they had heard from a reporter that I was going to ask for $200,000 which wasn’t even true. They didn’t even talk to me. As soon as my agent got on the phone with them, they said they are just going to pay me my show and win and the fight is going to be off.

“Here is the thing, nowhere in the contracts, any of them, is that a legitimate fulfilment of my contract,” she continued. “It says they need to give me fights and that if I turned down a fight that is one thing. I didn’t turn down this fight, though. I remained willing to fight my opponent at the contracted weight the entire time and then when she didn’t make the contracted weight, I was willing to enter into a new contract, for that fight. The UFC refused to negotiate.”

Some see Project Spearhead as the main reason why the UFC didn’t negotiate with Smith. Smith is the interim president of Project Spearhead, which strives to unionize MMA fighters.

Leslie Smith was a top contender in the UFC. While Smith over the course of her career fought some of the top names in MMA. That includes names like Cris Cyborg, Raquel Pennington, Jessica Eye and Sarah Kauffman, among others. And with a 10-7-1 record, Smith can still fight and fight at a high-level — something she is hoping to continued to do.

I am definitely looking to get back into another promotion,” she said. “I mean, I fight. That is what I do. That is what I have been doing for the past 10 years.

“I have my eyes on Bellator, I’m looking at RIZIN, maybe some Bareknuckle Boxing. I’m a blank slate right now, I have a lot of options.”

Where would you like to see Leslie Smith fight next?

Check back on Monday to see part two of this interview, in which Smith discusses Project Spearhead and why a union is so important for fighters. 

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/5/2018.