We saw a different Anthony Smith in victory at UFC Vegas 37 on Saturday.
It was as if someone flipped a switch in Smith’s head after he submitted No. 11-ranked light heavyweight Ryan Spann in the main event, as ‘Lionheart’ stood over his downed opponent and started shouting at him.
The usually soft-spoken light heavyweight said Spann got to him in the pre-fight buildup and that he wanted to teach the cocksure 30-year-old a lesson in respect.
“Maybe this is going to sound arrogant or pretentious but I have earned the respect from my peers,” Smith said at the post-fight conference (h/t MMA Fighting). “I put a lot of work into this game. I’ve sacrificed my entire adult live to be here. To be in the position I’m sitting in right now. That’s time with my kids. That’s friendships. That’s life opportunities. I could have been a godd*mn surgeon by now. I’ve put a lifetime of work into this, and most of my peers respect me. That’s all I ask.
“You don’t have to like me. We don’t have to get along. We don’t have to be friends. You can think you’re going to kick my ass and sometimes you might, but I think just respecting my journey is the only thing I ever expect from anybody. And he didn’t. Saying he doesn’t care what I’ve done, he doesn’t care about the main events, he doesn’t care who I’ve beaten. He doesn’t care about the bonuses. I bet he cares now.”
“Who do I gotta beat? What do I gotta do? That’s an honest question. Who do I gotta beat? I beat the old guys, and people said they’re too old. Now I’m beating the young guys, and they’re not ranked high enough. What the f*ck do you want me to do? At this point, I don’t give a f*ck anymore. I’m doing what I can do. I’m fighting the guys in front of me. I’m f*cking over it. I’m done worrying about it.
“I care because I want people to recognize my sacrifice, or I did. Now I don’t give a sh*t. I don’t care. I’m going to do my own thing and f*cking like it or not, I’m here.”
Security was called into the cage following Saturday’s post-fight altercation, but Smith claims both he and Spann actually left the octagon with a newfound respect for one another.
“Let’s not pretend like Ryan Spann wasn’t going to rub that sh*t in my face if he beat me,” Smith said. “I wasn’t even trying to rub it in his face. That was just my first initial reaction. The second he tapped and the ref was pulling me off, my initial reaction was where was that ass whooping that you were bringing for me? That was my thought. That’s what’s been running through my head since he said it.
“Maybe I’m on some Michael Jordan sh*t where I’m making sh*t up in my head and I’m making a mountain out of a molehill just cause that’s what I need to do. I don’t know. The fact is it genuinely bothered me so that was emotional reaction immediately but I’m glad we got it over with. He said it, he’s trying to feed his family, I’m trying to feed mine. We both really, really wanted this. It’s just part of the game.”
Smith submitted Spann to extend his winning streak to three fights and re-cement his status as a top-tier light heavyweight following prior losses to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic. Expect the former light heavyweight title challenger to move back into the top five once the UFC updates its rankings.