Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Maurice Smith Returns To The Cage At Age 50

Photo by Stephen Martinez for Sherdog.

Here is a fight announcement I did not expect. Former UFC Heavyweight champion Maurice Smith is stepping back out of retirement to once again compete in MMA. The 50 year old veteran will fight on March 30 in Kearney, Nebraska as part of the second show from Resurrection Fighting Alliance. No opponent for Smith has yet been announced.

Smith started his career as a well respected kickboxer in the 1980's and early 90's, and took part in the inaugural K-1 World Grand Prix in 1993. Starting in 1993 he committed himself to making the transition to MMA. After some troubles getting his career going, Smith reached his greatest fame in 1997 when he defeated the then unbeaten Mark Coleman to win the UFC Heavyweight title. He defended the belt once against Tank Abbott before losing it to Randy Couture later that year at UFC Japan. After the title loss, Smith competed in various organiations, including the UFC, Pride, Rings, and K-1. He unofficially retired in 2001, but has taken sporadic fights in K-1 and MMA since then. His last MMA run came in 2007-2008 when he went 2-1 with wins in Strikeforce and the IFL (where he also served as a coach). This will be his first pro fight of any kind in nearly 4 years.

While not a household name for casual MMA fans, Smith deserves recognition as a pioneer of the sport. He was one of the first to succesfully translate his kickboxing credentials into an MMA career. He's also known for forming an early team with Frank Shamrock and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. Dubbed "The Alliance", this was one of the earliest MMA super-teams where fighters discovered the importance of cross-training, becoming complete mixed martial artists instead of one discipline specialists.

Smith's more recent fights have been essentially showcases against other legends, and I would expect the same here. It will be interesting to see who he is paired with, and what he still brings to the table.

Also on the card is a main event fight between Houston Alexander and Gilbert Yvel. Yvel is 1-0 since his 0-3 UFC run in 2010, while Alexander is 4-2 (1) since leaving the UFC, including a good win over Sokoudjou. This is not likely to be the most technical fight you've ever seen, but it's pretty great match-making and should be a wild, action-packed war.

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