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Smith doesn’t get what ‘pretty boy’ Rockhold’s beef is: ‘That’s why nobody likes him’

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Coming off a lose to Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title, Anthony Smith is preparing for another high profile fight—against Alexander Gustafsson. But in the meantime, former middleweight champ Luke Rockhold has made himself a thorn in Smith’s side.

UFC 225: Whittaker v Romero 2 Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

By the time Anthony Smith made the move to light heavyweight, it seemed as though the book had been written on his MMA career. The then-29-year-old was coming off a decisive loss to fellow action-fighter Thiago Santos. Both men had made names for themselves as dangerous opponents who would take on all comers, but both also seemed like they were too wild and unstructured to make a climb to title contention.

Fast forward a year and Smith is once again coming off a loss, but this time in a light heavyweight championship fight against Jon Jones, having racked up a 3-bout win streak over former champs Rashad Evans, Shogun Rua, and title contender Volkan Oezdemir. Santos, himself, is getting set to face Jones in his own title bid in July. The move up a division paid off huge for both men, but it left at least one fellow fighter extremely skeptical of their success: former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold.

Rockhold is set to make his own jump to 205, taking on top-ranked Jan Blachowicz—who Santos beat back in February, to earn his title shot. And in the months leading up to the move, the current Combat Club athlete has made a point of lobbing insults at “sloppy” Santos and Smith.

“Anthony Smith just got a title shot,” Rockhold said, talking about light heavyweight’s lack of contenders. “He couldn’t sniff a top 10 at middleweight.”

Those are the kinds of barbs that have rankled Smith as he prepares for his return to the cage. Smith will face former light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson at UFC Stockholm. And while he may be focused on his opponent, in a recent interview with MMA Junkie, he made it clear that he was fed up with Rockhold’s trash talk.

“I just don’t get what his beef is, and now, he just keeps going with it,” Smith said—explaining that without a title between them, Rockhold isn’t exactly working the Conor McGregor game and talking his way into PPV money. “‘Oh, Alexander Gustafsson’s going to beat his ass.’ But maybe not, (expletive). You ever consider that? Maybe you should focus on your fight and worry about that, because you’re going to look real stupid if I beat Alex and you lose. Real stupid. Historically, his (expletive) talking hasn’t worked out well for him.”

Smith also made it clear that a fight between he and Rockhold is there for the asking, any time the former champ wants it. In the meantime, though?

“I’m not a pretty boy like him,” Smith said. “Nobody wants to take pictures with me in the club. I’ve got to work for a living, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m working. I’m not out here trash talking people for no reason.

“That’s why nobody likes him. Nobody in the UFC likes him. None of the staff likes him. None of the executives like him. None of the fighters like him. So he can sit pretty and eat his meals on TMZ and talk all the (expletive) all he wants. But at the end of the day, no one likes you, and sometimes that’s what matters most. It’s about how you treat people and if people respect you.”

UFC Stockholm: Gustafsson vs. Smith goes down on Saturday, June 1st at the Ericsson Globe. The event is expected to be headlined by the light heavyweight top contenders’ bout between Alexander Gustafsson & Anthony Smith, and generally showcase some of 205’s veteran talent and rising prospects. Volkan Oezdemir vs. Ilir Latifi is set for the co-main event, with Jimi Manuwa vs. Alexander Rakic and Darko Stosic vs. Devin Clark further down the card.