Though he hit a speed bump in 2014, looking back on the year, welterweight Gilbert Smith feels it was a very positive time in his career.
“It was a transitional year for me,” Smith told MMAWeekly.com. “It was a year I was able to step it up and take it to another level.
“I won three of four fights. All of those fights were against really legitimate guys. I came into my own and it really built my confidence and proved that I could compete at any level.”
Smith’s only loss of 2014 came to Brian Foster, who as it happens, would end up becoming his teammate.
“That night of the fight we were talking about training together,” said Smith of Foster. “We had a connection through Dustin Jacoby, who is one of my main training partners. Business is business, we had a good fight, he beat me two rounds to one, and it was a good learning lesson to me. I like having him on our team.”
To kick off 2015, Smith (10-3) will have a chance to take things to yet another level when he faces Chidi Njokuani (11-4) at RFA 22 this Friday in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the promotion’s 170-pound title.
“Chidi is a guy you can’t go in against half-stepping,” said Smith. “He’s a damn tough competitor, but my team and I broke him down. We’ve got strategies for strategies. We’ve got plans for plans. We feel really confident that I will come away with that belt.
“I don’t expect it to be an easy fight or a quick fight, but I do expect it to be a successful fight.”
While fighting for a title in Colorado against an opponent such as Njokuani is a big thing for Smith, he knows all that matters is what happens in the fight itself.
“There are going to be a lot of eyes on this fight, so it does add something special, but at the end of the day, when the cage door closes, none of that stuff matters,” said Smith. “It’s about who shows up, who performs, who trained harder and was more well-prepared.”
As he is focused on his RFA fight, Smith’s bigger goals for the year will have to wait.
“I have ideas on what I want, but at the end of the day is fighting Friday night for the belt,” said Smith. “Everything else is secondary. I can say whatever I want, but after this fight anything can change. My plan is to fight Friday and deal with the rest afterwards.”