Maurice Smith Enters UFC Hall of Fame

After watching Bruce Lee’s Chinese Connection, and after being forced to run away from a fight, Maurice Smith began training in the martial arts. Starting from age 13, he practiced karate, taekwondo and wing chun, before discovering kickboxing.

Now, Smith has earned a place in the UFC Hall of Fame’s pioneer wing as part of its 2017 class.

Smith entered the world of kickboxing with seven straight wins before turning professional. In the 80s and 90s, Smith had reigns as the World Kickboxing Council’s light heavyweight world champion and heavyweight world champion. Smith also competed in several fights for K-1, where he was the K-1 World Grand Prix 2001 Preliminary USA winner, going on to the World Grand Prix in Las Vegas that year. Smith made it to the semi-finals of the world tournament. His last kickboxing bout was in 2005.

Smith also competed in the early days of MMA, debuting in Pancrase on Nov. 8, 1993. In that promotion, Smith faced the likes of Ken Shamrock and Bas Rutten. On Oct. 18, 1996, Smith debuted in Extreme Fighting, defeating Marcus Silveira via TKO to win the promotion’s heavyweight championship.

Smith made an impact in his first UFC bout — which took place at UFC 14. He defeated Mark Coleman via unanimous decision to win the UFC heavyweight championship. This bout was named the UFC’s Fight of the Year for 1997. After one successful title defense against Tank Abbott (via submission due to exhaustion) at UFC 15, Smith lost the heavyweight crown to Randy Couture at UFC Japan. Between 1999 and 2000, Smith would have four fights in UFC and one in PRIDE. After a 2007 MMA bout, his first since his final UFC appearance in 2000, Smith competed in a bout in Strikeforce, where he defeated Rick Roufus. His last MMA bout came in November 2013.

He retired following this bout at the age of 51.

“It will be an honor to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and be forever connected to this sport,” Smith told MMA Junkie. “I was the first world-class striker to win a UFC title because I worked with great training partners to evolve into a well-rounded fighter. I’m proud of the titles I won in MMA, but helping advance the game toward the mixed martial arts of today is my greatest accomplishment in the sport.”

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