Dear Scott Smith,
I'm not going to demand your retirement. My politics, while unidentified, lean libertarian, and it's not my place to tell you how to live your life or what's the best course of action for you and your family. Only Scott Smith can decide what is best for Scott Smith.
With that caveat drawn, I hope you think long and hard about your future in prizefighting.
Your greatest attribute as a fighter -- the ability to absorb punishment -- has betrayed you. Where that skill once allowed you to take a beating in order to ultimately unleash one of your own, it has now left you as a functioning heavy bag in the cage. Your brain's stubbornness is MMA's version of the standing eight count, a method of prolonging the accumulation of concussive blows.
This curse of consciousness was never more apparent than Saturday night. My friend Rami informed me that Tarec Saffiedine struck you 142 times over the course of fifteen minutes. (You, by contrast, returned fire successfully all of 21 times.) He landed more strikes than you threw in every single round. "Futile" would only begin to describe your performance that night.
But the numbers, as always, only tell part of the story. Saffiedine's dominance over you could be explained by a discrepancy in skill (and it certainly explains part of it). It's the way you looked in the cage, Scott, that worries me. Too many times you just sort of trod in place, granting Saffiedine unmitigated access to your person. Against the fence, you looked to be playing a rope-a-dope strategy as Saffiedine unloaded to all points of your body, as if Muhammad had taught it to you himself...in his current condition living as a sad reminder of the excavating effects of Parkinson's syndrome.
It was the sequence after the mugging on the fence that remains burned in my memory, though. The preceding moments are cloudy. I believe you finally threw a punch -- a wild, looping one, no doubt -- that sent Saffiedine backpedaling to safer ground. The space allowed you to clear away from the chain link that had been digging into the flesh of your back. You took a few steps forward, and then...you just sort of stood there. Seemingly resigned to your fate, you moved with the labored difficulty of a man twice your age. Soon enough, Saffiedine was back circling you like a vulture as you circled your wagons.
Your last nine fights, save the 24-second KO of Terry Martin, have all followed the same basic narrative: Scott Smith takes a beating. Back-to-back fights with Robbie Lawler? Check. Benji Radach? Check. Nick Diaz? Double check. Cung Le I and II? Check. Paul Daley? Faceplanted check. Tarec Saffiedine? Check and mate.
I enjoy watching a good beating like any other fight fan, Scott, but there's nothing pleasurable about watching a guy shell up like you did on Saturday night. You looked meek and defenseless. You were the Christian to Saffiedine's lion.
Please don't take my thoughts the wrong way. I say this only because of an overwhelming sense of compassion. I don't know your financial situation, or whether you have any prospects outside the world of professional fighting. And I understand that it's hard to walk away from something that you love to do, something that's identified your sense of self for the last ten years. But please, if your loved ones are expressing similar sentiments, please take them to heart. It may save everyone a lot of pain and suffering down the line.