This Saturday night (morning for the viewers stateside), the UFC returns to Sweden for UFC Stockholm and in the main event, ‘Lionheart’ Anthony Smith travels into enemy territory.
Hitting a new stride with his move to the light heavyweight division from middleweight in June 2018, Smith would pick up two big knockout wins over the likes of former UFC champions, Rashad Evans and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua before submitting recent title challenger, Volkan Oezdemir in the third round of their five-round affair to earn the first title shot of his 45-fight career.
In said title shot, the Corpus Christi, Texas native would face off with the division’s all-time best, the champion, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones at UFC 235 in March. Unfortunately for the man known as ‘Lionheart,’ Jones would get the better of him in a dominant unanimous decision showing.
“I still can’t [explain it] and that’s the problem,” Smith said on The MMA Hour of his performance against Jones. “It didn’t feel any different. The media obligations were a little bit crazier, Vegas was pretty wild, there was a lot of fans, I got recognized a lot more. But other than that, it felt normal. The whole camp felt good. I mean, if we’re really going to split hairs, then I think training camp was a little bit too long. But I can’t put my finger on anything. Fight night I felt good, walking to the Octagon I felt good, right before the fight started I felt fine and looked better than I’ve ever been. I was sharp, I was on point. So I don’t know what happened.”
Arriving in Sweden this week, Anthony Smith is set to face off with another great in the country’s best to ever do it, ‘The Mauler,’ Alexander Gustafsson.
For Gustafsson, he too is coming off of a recent defeat to Jones which took place at UFC 232 at the end of 2018. And as motivated as he’ll be to rebound in his home country against another fellow former title challenger, Smith looks to play spoiler by any means necessary and make up for that last time out.
“To be honest with you, I don’t give a f*ck what happens in the fight,” Anthony Smith said. “I want to perform and that’s it. I want to hit him as many times as I possibly can, I want to punch when I can punch, I want to kick when I can kick and if he gets too close I’ll drag him to the f*cking ground and if he gets up then I’ll do it again. That’s all I want to do. I want to perform. That’s as far as my mind has gone. After that, we’ll see what happens because it’s not even about Alex, it’s about me. This is about wanting to take a break but I can’t do it with this burning feeling in my stomach.
“I have this feeling where I just need to destroy something. So whatever happens in the interim, it doesn’t matter to me. I just need to get this feeling out of my stomach and it’s driving me crazy and it keeps me up at night. I just don’t give a sh*t. It could be Alex, it could have been 10 other guys in the division. There’s no gameplan. Those last two fights, I think I got a little too intricate with the gameplans and I think it made me think too much. I’m an instinctual fighter and I always have been so I think got away brought me to the dance. I’m a pressure guy that gets in your face and swings hammers. I could be a super clean striker that’s really pretty and ‘OOs’ and ‘AHHs’ everybody. But deep down in my heart, that’s not who I am and I think that, I don’t know, maybe I was trying to be something I’m not [against Jones].”
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 5/28/2019