Last month, Cris Cyborg made her much anticipated UFC debut. She faced one of only two women that said "yes" to the fight. Leslie Smith was that woman. Leslie didn't win the fight, but she now carries the unique distinction of having faced the most feared woman in women's MMA, where a rumored 10 others had declined the fight.
Since Smith's bout, others have started voicing an interest in facing Cyborg, an occurrence that has not escaped Leslie's watchful eye. She spoke to the Three Amigos Podcast in a recent interview, and shared her opinion on the sudden change of heart.
"I know there were ten other women who were approached for this fight—TEN—and they did not take the fight. That's kind of a high number, much more than I expected. I would've thought a couple, but I was told it was ten, which is amazing to me. I don't think there was anything that would lead any of them to want to be in a fight with her, as far as weaknesses that were displayed in the less than two minutes of our fight.
I think it's got a lot more to do with them realizing that they shouldn't be little...scaredy-cats [laughs]. They shouldn't be little beezies, not taking the real fights, because that's what it's all about. Maybe a couple of them watched the embedded where I talked about it, and they're like, ‘Oh yeah, I guess this is what I wanna do.'
For the record, I know that Miesha Tate has always said that she would take the fight, but she had other obligations to the UFC. It's all the other ones; I love laughing at seeing how many of them are willing to take that fight now."
Another topic that has Smith's avid interest is the Ali Act. She's well versed in its finer details and keen to see the bill passed that would see MMA included under its umbrella, despite the UFC's oppositional stance to it.
"The Ali Act is an act that happened about 16 years ago for boxing. Not all the aspects have always been enforced, but they have been used in court a couple times, so they have been beneficial and served their purpose in that regard.
It's not all completely applicable to MMA, however, it would do the job in helping the fighters in at least guaranteeing things like rankings, which translate directly to championship fights. That's significant, and part of the act would say that the UFC couldn't be the determining body on the rankings, because that's kind of a conflict.
Then there's things like long-term contracts that prevent fighters from one organization fighting for another one. Sometimes that can prevent the fights that we all want to see, the big, money-making fights, but for the most part, it makes sense why you'd want to fight in the same promotion.
There are those that would say that it's not that applicable, but having things like having all the revenue from a card announced publicly, that would be useful. It would be really useful for fighters to know exactly what their value is. There's another section of it that talks about how a manager cannot be a promoter, which is interesting, because I think I still hear about that happening in boxing.
There are some points that apply and some that don't. I just think it's really important for fighters to start establishing themselves as a group that's intelligent and professional and conscientious of protecting their rights. I think the Ali Act is a very big step in that direction."
A question that has been on the minds of many a fan of late, is will Ronda Rousey return to action or will she solely pursue her acting career. Leslie would like to see her return to the sport, and feels that if she does, it will be a boon for WMMA.
"First, going the way of Gina Carano would certainly not be a bad thing. She's definitely a money maker and has brought about some big changes for women's MMA in the course of her still short career.
I'd like to see her back. I think it would be great if she came back, but it's up to her. Fighting isn't a job, or even a sport like any other. It's a hard thing to tell someone they have to go back in there and fight. You can tell someone to go play soccer or baseball, and even if their heart is not into it, you can give them a tough slap on the back and say, ‘Go get ‘em, Tiger,' and hopefully their blood will get going and they'll remember something.
You can't really do that for a fight, though. Either someone wants to fight or they don't. I think it's a tough place to come back from, where she's at right now, because when you create a persona—and she lived up to that persona-- and something happens to take that away, it's like that person has died.
She's been really vocal about the pain it's caused her, and I respect that. She even mentioned that she had suicidal thoughts briefly, and I think it's great that she's been that outspoken. It's really sad that she got to that point, and I hope that she has more people around her that love and appreciate her for more than just fighting, because that's not the only thing that defines her, or any of us, for that matter.
I just hope for the best for her. I think it would be a good thing for her to come back and have another fight, and I think that she would do great. She's a powerhouse, but at the same time, if her head and heart isn't in it, then she shouldn't, because you have to be in 100%. That's the main reason that the pool is so small, it's because it's a hard thing to stay injury-free, stay focused, and stay 100% invested mentally. That's a really tough thing to do, and only she knows if that's what's right for her."
There were many more topics covered in this excellent interview that covered:
- What she's been doing in the month since her fight with Cris Cyborg
- Her ideal fight schedule and if she feels the division is deep enough to keep her active
- Discussion on the UFC's new weight cutting guidelines
- If she'd ever be interested in fighting at 125 again
- Ways she thinks refereeing could be improved
- If she prefers the refs err on the side of caution or for allowing the fighters a chance to come back (even if it means taking more damage)
- Her thoughts on judging issues
- Why she feels that other women in her division are now willing to fight Cyborg when they weren't just two months ago
- Her thoughts on Brock Lesnar's return and the exemption that was granted to him
- Her take on the Ali Act and if there are specific points of concern
- If she feels Rousey will come back to competition
You can listen to the entire interview here at the 48:15 mark or via the embedded player below. Remember, if you're looking for us on SoundCloud or iTunes, we're under the MMA Nation name. Follow our Twitter accounts: Stephie Haynes, Three Amigos Podcast, Geroge Lockhart, Iain Kidd and Mookie Alexander or our Facebook fan page, Three Amigos Pod.