Anthony Smith was just two days removed from a five round title fight loss to Jon Jones at UFC 235 when the call came in with an offer for his next opponent.
The UFC wanted Smith to face Alexander Gustafsson in the main event of the upcoming UFC Fight Night card from Stockholm, Sweden on June 1. He barely had time to breathe after facing off with Jones for 25 minutes but Smith didn’t hesitate for a second to accept the fight.
According to Smith, the quick turnaround to face Gustafsson was really about washing the taste of a bad performance out of his mouth more than anything else.
Smith might be one of the most brutally honest athletes on the entire UFC roster and he knows that he failed to show up against Jones in March, which is why he’s so determined to prove himself on Saturday in Sweden against Gustafsson.
“The excitement came. It took a little bit longer than I thought it would but it came and it came at the right time,” Smith said when speaking with MMAWeekly. “I think I still had to process all the b—shit I had to deal with, with the Jon [Jones] thing. Once I had a focus, it was a lot easier. I’m excited. I’m happy to be here and I’m ready to fight.
“I’m as good now as I was going into the Jon fight. Now I’ve just got to perform this time. I think unfortunately for Gus, he’s going to get the performance that I was supposed to put on against Jon.”
Much will be made in the days leading up to this fight that Smith and Gustafsson are the last two fighters who faced Jones and an impressive win in the main event could put either one of them on the fast track towards title contention yet again.
That might be the conversation everybody else wants to have with Smith ahead of the fight but he’s not thinking about anything more than showing up and putting a jaw dropping performance against Gustafsson.
“That’s what this whole thing is about — getting rid of that hangover. That s—tty feeling of not getting it done,” Smith said candidly. “This isn’t about Gus. This isn’t about anything but myself. I’ve made it very clear, I don’t need to fight. I’m not one of these guys out here chasing a paycheck. I don’t need the money. I’m sitting in the top five, nice and pretty, and that’s exactly where I’ll stay when I fight. I could have sat and stayed and taken whatever fight I wanted but I took this one because I need to perform.
“That’s what I need to do. I need get this s—ty feeling out of my stomach of not performing. F—k the loss, f—k Jon Jones, f—k all that, it has nothing to do with it.”
While every fight has something on the line, Smith says this one is much more personal to him because of the way he failed to show up for his last performance against Jones.
There’s never been a loss that sat well with the Nebraska native but if an opponent just beat him on that night, he can grow and come back better than before.
This time, Smith is determined to get back to the finishing machine that demolished Rashad Evans in his UFC light heavyweight debut and then did the same to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua just weeks later.
“It’s about me. It’s about how I feel and how performed. That’s what I need to shake,” Smith stated. “Because I’m never going to be able to rest until I get rid of it. It’s that burning, ball of fire I can’t rid of and the only way I can get rid of it is to try and destroy something. That’s it.
“I haven’t thought about this fight in a win versus loss situation. I haven’t thought about the title. I legitimately haven’t thought about what happens if I win? What happens if I lose? It hasn’t even crossed my mind. I don’t even care about the title and where the win puts me. I don’t care where I’m at in the rankings. I just want to perform. That’s it.”