EXCLUSIVE | Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith talks Volkan Oezdemir, new weight class, and Jon Jones

Perhaps no fighter is a better example of what fighting at a more natural weight class can do for your fighting career than Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith.

Smith has had a career rebirth so to speak this year. The 30-year-old fighter from Omaha, Nebraska has typically been a middleweight fighter in his career. Lately, however, Smith has decided that cutting down to 185 pounds and then ballooning back up to 230 pounds just isn’t worth it anymore. Let alone the damage that does to your body.

Lionheart is gearing up for his second straight main event fight. He will be fighting Volkan Oezdemir at the end of the month at UFC Fight Night 138 in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Both Smith and Oezdemir are top ten light heavyweights. Lionheart occupies the No. 9 spot and ‘No Time’ is holding down the No. 2. This fight could give us the next 205-pound contender.

“Yeah, I think so,” Smith said when asked if his fight with Oezdemir is essentially a No. 1 contenders match. “Things have been going well. The pieces of the puzzle are finally starting to come together and I feel like I’m just now entering my prime.” Smith continued, “as far as Volkan goes, its really never been about the names to me. It’s more about the number in front of their name that I’m concerned with.”

Indeed the pieces are coming together for Smith. Whether its a new outlook on life, a new weight class, or training at one of the best, newer MMA gyms around, Smith is poised to make a run at the divisions elite.

“Its hard to explain,” said Smith when asked about his new outlook on life. “The ability to spend an entire training camp focused on getting better and not always worried about getting skinnier. There’s no more stress about how much I weigh or how much time I have to lose it. I wish I could explain the difference that not having that anxiety and what that does to your system. And not doing the yo-yo thing with my weight, where I go down to [1]85 and then up to 220 [pounds]. You can only do that so many times and I think I burnt mine up a long time ago.”

205 pounds suits Smith much better. The light heavyweight division is an interesting one. That is, the champion appears to be getting stripped and recently reinstated Jon Jones appears to be getting a title shot. What gives?

“I’ve had a really hard time with this whole Jon Jones situation,” Smith said. “It makes me really bitter toward USADA and Jon Jones in general. “I don’t know Jon Jones and I’m not going to speak on his personal life or choices. I haven’t always made the best decisions either. Smith continued, “Its really easy for me to talk about Jon hitting a pregnant lady and running off. But it would take someone five seconds to dig into my past and find out that I totaled a car and ended up on life support drinking and driving. I just feel like the difference is, I learn from my mistakes.”

Powerful and heartfelt words from Lionheart. And if you’re wondering why Smith has put so much thought into the whole Jon Jones situation, quite simply he wants to be the one to take out Jones.

“It bothers me because I plan on being across the cage from Jon Jones,” Smith revealed. “It’s easy for the public to say its no big deal, worry about yourself. But Jon Jones is dangerous as it is. I’ve been grinding my ass off for years and he just keeps skating and getting breaks because who he is. I obviously want to compete against him because I’m a competitor and I want to be the one who takes out Jon Jones.”

Let us know what you think.

Will Smith ever get his chance to end Jones?

 

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 10/4/2018