At 50 years old, former UFC heavyweight champion Maurice “Mo” Smith is still going strong, even if he has been out of the active fight scene for four years.
“I never officially retired at all,” said Smith. “The promoters after one bad fight or two bad fights just cut you off sometimes. I don’t have any answer for that other than maybe because I had bad fights against (Hidehiko) Yoshida and ‘Babalu’ (Renato Sobral).
“For me, I can say it’s not me 100-percent; (the desire to fight) has always been there and will always be there, so it’s nothing on my end… I just don’t have any control over what promoters do.”
Smith told MMAWeekly.com, that sometimes more than just wisdom comes with age.
“Age is probably more to my advantage in some ways,” he said. “People may think I’m an old man, but the way I move and when I’m on my game, you won’t think I was this old or whatnot. It’s just a number for the public perception. After I prove myself and show myself, people may think, ‘he’s old, but he’s a bad dude.’ So it’s just a number.
“The thing is, this is what we know; we’re fighters, this is what we do. If you stay on your game, you can go until you’re tired. You don’t win because you’re young or lose because you’re old; you win or lose because of the guy in front of you and based on what happens (in the fight).”
Smith will return to fighting for the first time since 2008 when he makes his debut at light heavyweight to square off against Kyle Keeney at Resurrection FA 2 on March 30 in Kearney, Neb.
“I’m not a true heavyweight like these guys are now,” said Smith. “They’re 270 pounds, 280 pounds and are cutting down to 260 or whatever, and I’m coming in at 220. It’s hard to fight the guys now who are true heavyweights when you give up 30 pounds or 40 pounds, (as opposed to) giving up 10 pounds or 5 pounds and fighting guys who are a lot smaller.”
Not only has Smith decided to change weight classes, he’s left his home base of Seattle and begun training in Las Vegas with the likes of Tyler Perry, ‘One-Kick Nick’ Blomgren, and Sergio Penha.
“Every fight is important, but this is important (for my career right now), so getting away from home to focus on fighting instead of focusing on bills and kids or whatever is good,” said Smith. “The first few weeks was hell because I wasn’t seeing the results I had in Seattle, and it was kind of frustrating at first, but now it’s coming along and getting better because I’ve had time to progress.”
Even though he’s a legend in kickboxing and one of the pioneers of MMA, Smith still remains humble as he looks at his match with Keeney on March 30.
“I’ve fought guys who have greater accomplishments than him, but he could beat me, still,” said Smith. “To me, he’s the same fighter as a Mark Coleman, Marco Ruas, or Randy Couture; he has the ability to beat me with one shot or one submission or whatever. I have to respect him as a fighter regardless, because it’s a hit or miss game, this business.”
Still, Smith knows what he can do in a fight, and doesn’t feel like he can be counted out either.
“If I have my game on – which I’ve improved on in certain areas that I have improved up on a while – it’s going to be very hard to beat me,” he said. “There’s very few guys who can beat me on just pure punching and kicking. Ground-wise, I don’t worry about the ground so much. The only thing I worry about is the wrestling aspect, so that’s what I’m going to focus on a lot.”
After four years off from fighting, Smith is looking to make up for lost time in 2012, take a few fights and put a positive final stamp on his MMA career when he’s ready to call it a day.
“What I would like to accomplish is to go out on my own terms and (be an example to) not let promoters push you out and show that you can also continue (to fight),” he said. “People tell you that you should retire when you’re 40, but you should retire when you don’t feel good, when you don’t have the desire anymore. If you’re staying in shape, staying on your game, then you can compete with a lot of guys.”