If it hadn’t been for his ego, Smith says he wouldn’t have even made the trip down to Brazil to be the backup fighter for Glover Teixeira vs. Jamahal Hill.
MMA, like other sports, is an ego driven endeavor. Succeeding at the highest levels as an athlete requires absolute self belief, confidence, and the kind of competitive mindset that will push a person to not only train to be the best, but to want to go out and prove their worth in public as well.
It is, therefor, also a platform designed for high profile public failure.
One of the most common cliches fans will hear among the kinds of motivational execu-speak that tend to dominate athletics is ‘Dare to be great’. It’s one of those perfect catchphrases that means just about nothing while also being so easily understood by almost everyone. The long version would be something along the lines of ‘Take big risks, so you can reap big rewards.’ But for risks to be risky, there has to be… a risk.
That’s an unfortunate chicken that has apparently come home to roost for top-ranked UFC light heavyweight Anthony Smith, who recently showed up on the MMA Hour to explain the big risk he took, when he decided to fly to Brazil and cut weight for his role as backup fighter for the January title bout between Glover Teixeira and Jamahal Hill. Smith didn’t set foot in the cage that week, but even had he done so, he wouldn’t have had a chance to win UFC gold—after failing to make the contracted 205 lb title fight limit.
Instead of an improbable path to sporting glory, Smith is now experiencing the blow-back. It’s especially harsh, it seems, given his own history as an unforgiving voice when it came to other fighters missing weight.
”I was really sick,” Smith said, by way of explanation of why he didn’t make weight back in January (transcript via MMA Fighting). “Really, really, really.”
“It’s a fairly simple story. But the problem is, every time—everyone always gets mad when you don’t give a reason for what you did, or something that happened. They’re like, ‘Well, you won’t even give us a reason. We don’t even deserve a reason.’ And they get all upset because you won’t say anything.
“The second you give the reason, it immediately becomes you’re an ‘excuse-maker,’” Smith added, as to why he didn’t originally disclose his illness to the public. “So you can’t win. So I’d love to tell you. And it would make a lot of sense, like, ‘Oh, OK. Holy shit! That makes a lot of sense.’”
‘Lionheart’ went on to explain that after getting a “steroid pack” and “antibiotics” to treat a sinus infection he “ballooned to like 235, 234” lbs. He was apparently able to get back down to 228 lbs., but by the time he landed in Brazil for fight week, that still only gave him a few days to cut a significant amount of weight. He came close, but couldn’t quite hit the mark.
“Sometimes that shit happens,” Smith admitted. “And I’m really critical of people that miss weight. That’s your job, you gotta make weight. If I … mentally didn’t have such an ego, I probably would have called and just said, ‘Hey, I’m really sick. I can’t make it. We’re gonna have to go without a backup. But … I would have to say I couldn’t do it, and I just can’t say that.”
Being fair, Smith’s account of events is perfectly reasonable. He had a big opportunity at a very inopportune time. He took the risk, went down to Brazil anyway; it didn’t pay off. Instead of glory, the fallout is public backlash. He’s probably right, too, that there is no one answer he could give in a situation like this that would quell all the rabble. But isn’t that what makes the potential payoff rewarding? That there’s a price to be paid for failure as well. If that’s the math, then a little ego bruising is pretty small change next to the potential glory of becoming one of the world’s greatest fighters.
Smith is set to return to action on May 13th in a Fight Night headlining bout against Johnny Walker. An official location for the card has yet to be named,. The event is also expected to feature a heavyweight bout between Jailton Almeida & Jairzinho Rozenstruik, as well as a women’s strawweight bout between Mackenzie Dern & Angela Hill.