FC president Dana White had rave reviews for Anthony Smith after a crucial career victory in Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 18 headliner.
Smith (33-16 MMA, 9-6 UFC) came into his light heavyweight main event against Devin Clark (12-5 MMA, 6-5 UFC) on the heels of pair of definitive losses. He needed to rebound to prove he’s still a contender, and did as much with a first-round submission win at UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
White acknowledged this was a crossroads fight for “Lionheart,” and was impressed by his response.
“He looked awesome,” White told reporters, including MMA Junkie, post-fight at UFC on ESPN 18. “He came in to make a statement, and message received. He looked good.”
It’s been a rough year for Smith both inside the octagon and out. He’s dealt with personal hardship, including a home invasion that put his family under the spotlight. His position in the 205-pound rankings was deterred, as well, but he showed reliance in beating Clark.
There was nothing smooth about the lead-up to this fight, though. After the original headliner between Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis was called off on weigh-in day, Smith’s fight was promoted to the main event, and changed to five rounds from three.
Smith remained composed throughout all the changes, however, and did his work inside the cage when the time arrived. That’s what White wants to see out of his fighters, he said, and now things are looking up for Smith.
“These are the things you’ve got to do,” White said. “You’ll see in this business a lot, guys who try to hold their spots and not fight anybody. That ain’t the way to do it. What he did tonight, that’s the way you do it. Are you still that good? If you’re still that good, then you should go out and do what you did tonight to a guy like Devin Clark: (a) young, hungry stud who wants to work his way up and steal your spot. You’ve got to go out and make a statement, and he did that tonight. People respect that.”