Jimmy Smith has been a staple in MMA quite a bit longer than his commentary tenure denotes. A veteran fighter himself, he also had a lead role on the History Channel's Fight Quest back in 2007. The spot launched him into a much more visible light in the community, and ultimately helped land him his current commentary/analyst role with Bellator.
Once upon a time, though, all was not right in Bellator wonderland, and Smith seriously contemplated leaving the organization. Despite the urging of his good friend and UFC lead commentator, Joe Rogan, he won't be leaving for the proverbial "greener pastures" the UFC once offered a few years back, when they made a bid for his services that was ultimately thwarted by Viacom. These days, things are smooth sailing, and Jimmy says he's happier than ever with his employment under his home promotion.
"The first time I heard from Joe (Rogan) was way back in the early Bjorn days when I had a falling out with Bellator, and Bjorn tried to get rid of me. I heard from Joe, I think over Twitter or Facebook...something, anyway, I forget how he contacted me. I didn't even know he knew who I was. I had no idea I was on his radar at all. He sent me a message saying, ‘Man, I think you're the best, keep it up, keep your chin up, everything is gonna work out,' one of those kind of things. That was the first time I'd ever heard from him.
We're in touch a lot now, because of the MMA landscape. We check in with one another after every big show, about how it went, or where things are going, how this fighter is doing, how that one is doing, etc. He's always given me a lot of praise, and he doesn't have to. A lot of people in his position wouldn't support the guy in the other organization, or other commentators in general. These days, people think it makes more sense to tear people down, but Joe has never done that. He's always been nothing but supportive of me and everything I've done. It's a really amazing and special thing.
The first issue with Bjorn was back in 2010ish. Basically, we had a great first year in Bellator on FOX Sports, and they said, ‘Okay, we want to sign an extension on your contract.' So I was like, ‘Hey, that's great. Wonderful.' He came back to me, and essentially cut my pay. I went, ‘I'm not signing that. There's no way I'm signing that.' That was it. That was the end of the negotiation. They didn't come back with anything. That was just it. Done. Finished.
Essentially, there was this gap and I was thinking, ‘Okay, I won't work for Bellator anymore.' Right before the first show of the next season, they came back and were pretty desperate. Needless to say, it worked out pretty well for me. For that month or so, I was out. They were looking at other people. They were looking at heavyweight, Neil Grove to replace me. At the 12th hour, they came back to the table, and that was the way it went.
I think it was an important statement for me to make. I've always been that guy, the one to say, ‘I don't care. I'll do something else for a living. I don't like being bullied or pushed around.' I think that was a lot of Bjorn's M.O. when he was in charge of Bellator. I made it very clear that I don't respond well to that. I tend to get more defiant or difficult, the harder you push me.
The current regime with Scott Coker, that's not how they do business. It's so much easier to work with. Much easier to deal with. It's a different world in two respects. Scott Coker has shown that we are moving forward and getting better. It's a much better work environment, and much more relaxed. Everybody there is able to do their job without so much stress. They've done a lot to keep me happy. Everyone I work with is great. I'm very happy there. It's fantastic."
Jimmy will be assuming his normal lead commentary role for tonight's Bellator Dynamite card which airs live tonight at 9 PM EST on Spike TV.
You can check out this fun interview (interview starts at the 1:15:35 mark of the audio) right here or via the embedded player below. Follow our Twitter accounts: Stephie Haynes, Three Amigos Podcast, Iain Kidd and Mookie Alexander.