No one on the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster embodies perseverance any better than Anthony Smith, a man who has made almost every imaginable stop in mixed martial arts.
Now one of the sport’s premier light heavyweights, “Lionheart” has transformed himself from journeyman to contender during an unlikely run of sustained success that has seen him win 15 times in his last 18 appearances. Smith ditched the middleweight weight cut to move to 205 pounds in 2018 and scored consecutive finishes against Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua and Volkan Oezdemir before challenging Jon Jones for the undisputed light heavyweight championship at UFC 235 on March 2, 2019. Though he wound up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision against Jones, Smith dusted off the debris three months later when he submitted Alexander Gustafsson with a fourth-round rear-naked choke and reasserted himself as one of the top fighters in the division.
As Smith awaits his latest marching orders from UFC matchmakers, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. Adversity failed to break him.
Smith once lost four consecutive fights, all by finish, in less than a year. He lost to Brian Monaghan on Feb. 20, 2009, Chaun Sims on March 14, 2009, Mike Pitz on July 5, 2009 and Jake Hecht on Feb. 5, 2010. Smith then suffered through a three-fight losing streak from Jan. 12, 2013 to Dec. 14, 2013. The culprits: Roger Gracie, Antonio Braga Neto and Josh Neer.
2. He clawed his way to the top on more than one occasion.
A Corpus Christi, Texas, native who now trains out of the ascendant Factory X camp in Colorado, Smith is one of five men who have held the Cage Fury Fighting Championships middleweight title. Dan Miller, Dustin Jacoby, Tim Williams and Kyle Daukaus are the others. He also struck gold inside the Victory Fighting Championship promotion.
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3. His skills made him a hot commodity.
Smith has competed in 22 different promotions during his 47-fight career. In addition to the UFC, CFFC and VFC, he has made appearances in the Resurrection Fighting Alliance, Extreme Beatdown, Bellator MMA, Strikeforce, Disorderly Conduct, Cornhusker Fight Club, C3 Fights, Extreme Challenge, Crowbar MMA, Seconds Out Promotions, Max Fights, Tri-State Cage Fights, Xtreme Kombat League, Fight Club Inc., Fight to Win, Minnesota Combat Sports, Brutaal Fight Night, Torment MMA and Pugilistic Productions organizations.
4. Violent tendencies strengthened his profile.
The Marc Montoya protégé has delivered 30 victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. They account for 91 percent of Smith’s career total. His list of victims includes three former UFC or Bellator champions: Rua, Evans and Hector Lombard.
5. He chose the cage as his classroom.
A high school dropout, Smith made his MMA debut as a teenager in February 2008, when, at the age of 19, he submitted Dave Moran with a second-round armbar under the VFC flag. He went on to post two more wins before his 20th birthday.
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