On March 2nd, Anthony Smith walks into his first title opportunity in the UFC as the overwhelming underdog, as he faces Jon Jones in the main event of UFC 235.
Dealing with not only being the 8-1 underdog against Jones, he has to contend with the scorn and smack talk from Jones’ very vocal supporters.
“[My coach Marc Montoya] tells me all the time that I need to worry about impressing myself and no one else, and that’s the piece that I’m going to struggle with a little bit,” Smith said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I would venture to guess it’s going to be really hard for me to stay humble talking to Joe Rogan afterwards, because the outpouring of hatred has been incredible. It doesn’t necessarily bother me too much, but it is a little bit shocking. Like, how so many people can care so much one way or the other just blows my mind. But there is a little bit of the ‘sticking it to the haters’ feeling there, for sure.”
“When it first happened, it was a little bit shocking when I first started,” Smith said. “But honestly, at this point I’ve kinda gotten used to it, and as the fight gets closer and closer, I do see that it’s changing a little bit. I don’t see as many, ‘Jon Jones is going to beat you ass, you p***y,’ comments as much anymore. I see a lot of guys hoping. I don’t see a whole lot of believers, but I see a lot of people that really, really hope.
“Overall, as a broad spectrum, that’s kinda how it’s been,” Smith added, “and I understand it and I’m looking forward to winning and changing everybody’s minds, that’s for sure.”
“It’s about the world title,” Smith said of his shot in Las Vegas. “I feel like I’d be preparing and I’d feel exactly the same way if it was Gustafsson or if it was Cormier or whoever. It’s not about Jon Jones, and I think that’s what’s kinda throwing everybody off, is I’m not attacking Jon Jones. I’m not attacking who he is as a person. I’m not even talking about the things that he’s done wrong, because I don’t care. I really don’t. This is about the gold belt that he has around his waist and that’s it. That’s all I care about.”
“Everything is much more, I would say, specifically focused around Jon, right?” Smith said of his camp. “So, most of my other camps, we kinda look at what my opponents do well, whether they have some holes, and really I just try to get better everywhere generally. We didn’t really focus too hard on any specific things. Jon Jones is a different beast. There’s a lot of things that you need to focus on specifically, so the training is a lot more specific on certain things.
“And then, you know, we really kinda dove in head-first into really making sure that my conditioning is taken care of. We went out of California and did a bunch of testing before the fight was even announced, kinda expecting that this was gonna happen, and my entire training camp has kinda been based around my heart rate and really targeting times and specific places that I need my heart rate in ranges. So I think that’s probably been the biggest change, is just really making sure that cardio-wise I’ll be fine.”
Initial Report: MMA Fighting