After defeating Ben Nguyen in very impressive fashion at UFC Fight Night 91 last week, Louis Smolka asked to fight Wilson Reis for the interim flyweight championship in his post-fight interview. Reis was supposed to fight Demetrious Johnson for the title at UFC 201, but the champ pulled out with an injury.
The second-round stoppage over Nguyen extended Smolka’s winning streak to four in a row and earned him a spot in the top 10. Despite that, his wish was not granted. Instead, Reis was booked to fight newcomer Sean Santella.
Smolka was saddened when he heard the news, because he didn’t call Reis out just to call someone out. He would have been legitimately ready to take advantage of the rare opportunity and take home gold.
“I was disappointed,” Smolka told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “I was hoping to get that interim shot. I would have answered very quickly had I got it. Had the UFC called me and given it to be, I would’ve been ready, I would’ve done it. I would’ve packed my bags, I would’ve just came home, kissed my baby and been off. I’d try to get her a ticket as well, though.”
The significance of interim titles has been a longtime debate in the mixed martial arts community. A marketing tool that allows organizations to promote a championship fight without a champion — that’s what most pundits believe interim titles are.
Smolka mostly agrees with that. But, as a fighter, he views the importance of interim titles slightly differently. He sees interim titles as a quick path to the undisputed title — the last stop before he gets there — which is everyone’s ultimate destination.
“I feel like, the interim titleholder is the No. 1 contender, but it’s like undisputed No. 1,” he said. “When you hold that interim title it’s to the point that they really can’t turn you down or run or blame an injury because you have a belt. I feel like, it just makes you the official No. 1 contender. I would be guaranteed the next shot at Demetrious had I won.”
There is still a very small amount of hope for the Hawaiian, however. Santella recently announced he was pulled from the fight against Reis just days after it was confirmed because he will not have enough time to complete his medicals required to compete.
But it would be surprising if the UFC books an interim title fight because they already opted to go against that idea by signing Santella to fight Reis in a non-title fight.
So, assuming Smolka does not receive the fight against Reis, how close is he from a (true) title shot against Mighty Mouse?
“I feel like I can’t be too far, after a win like that,” he said. “Four wins in a row now, three finishes. I feel like I gotta be pretty close. I don’t know, man. I’d like to hope for one or two big wins, that’s what I would hope for.”
Unless he receives a chance to obtain No. 1 contender status, the 25-year-old is good with fighting anyone above him in the rankings.
“I don’t really care, I really just wanted Wilson Reis for that solid No. 1 contender spot,” he said. “I don’t really care. I just want somebody in the top 10. Whatever they want to throw at me.”