At one time, Anthony Smith was the new guy on the block at 205 pounds.
The former middleweight had to make a name for himself in a new division and he did just that. First, it was quick finishes of Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua. Smith retired the former with a massive knee, and bludgeon the second into near unconsciousness with a vicious combination.
Smith would earn a fight with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Unfortunately for Smith, he’d have the same fate as all Jones’s other opponents. He was unable to muster any significant offense and had his game completely shut down by the 205-pound GOAT.
Smith would bounce back with a stoppage win over fellow title contender Volkan Oezdemir, before retiring another former three-time title contender in Alexander Gustafsson via submission. Smith is no longer a fringe middleweight and journeyman.
He’s one of the best light heavyweights in the world. Now in a division his body is built for and with his focus solely on being the best, Smith isn’t begging for an opportunity anymore. He’s also not chasing fights – he says the opponents need to come to him now.
“It’s the same thing with [Luke] Rockhold, you want to talk all that (expletive), now you’ve got to do your job. Now you’ve got to earn it,” Smith said.
“I don’t owe you (expletive). Now you’ve got to come to me and you’ve got to do something to deserve it. That’s a good position to be in.”
The rivalry he refers to is one that has been brewing for months. Rockhold is also making the jump up from middleweight to light heavyweight. In doing so, he cited his surprise that Smith was able to get a title shot so quickly after his struggles at 185.
This sparked a massive war of words that has gone back and forth multiple times, with Smith promising to punch a hole in Rockhold’s face. Rockhold claimed Smith simply couldn’t handle the truth. Rockhold will face Jan Blachowicz in his divisional debut – a tall order, even for a fighter of Rockhold’s talents.
Smith has also been candid about the lack of respect he’s gotten at light heavyweight. It seems people continue writing his victories off, no matter how many of them he gets and in how dynamic a fashion. With Gustafsson retiring, Smith said it was almost like some people thought a loss to him meant Gustafsson lacked skill.
Smith’s record is admittedly not the best, but that’s because he fought a lot earlier in his career before he took his training very seriously. The jump in weight classes also helped him out, and he has never looked better than he does now.
It may not be long until opponents are calling him out. If people really do believe he is that beatable, that plus his spot high in the rankings make him a perfect opponent to earn a title shot off of. However, Smith is no walk in the park for anyone.
Featured Image: just a representation.