Strikeforce’s Anthony Smith on Roger Gracie: “Out of Arguably the Five or Six Disciplines People Use For MMA Fights He’s Better Than Me At One of Them”
By Kelsey Mowatt
While many Strikeforce vets have already closed the book on their time with the promotion, and moved on to a new chapter with the UFC, several men still have one more challenge that awaits them this Saturday in Oklahoma City. Case in point is Anthony “Lionheart” Smith, who has an opportunity to not only end his Strikeforce tenure on a winning note, but to end it in memorable fashion by defeating rising middleweight Roger Gracie. In fact, according to Smith, he’s been awarded the difficult test that he was actively seeking out.
“Honestly, I asked for Roger right after my last Strikeforce fight,” Smith recently revealed on Full Contact Fighter Radio recently. “I’m kind of one of those guys who always has someone in the back of my mind that I want next, but I’ve always been good at keeping focused on the task at hand. He’s been someone that I’ve wanted to fight for a long time.”
“I was super excited,” the 24 year-old Smith added, while recalling his reaction to finding out he would fight the 31 year-old Gracie next. “I’m happy that Strikeforce is giving me the opportunity to really showcase what I can do.”
Of course, Gracie made his way to Strikeforce accompanied by plenty of hype, due to his world class jiu jitsu abilities and highly decorated grappling resume. Aside from a KO loss to “King Mo” Lawal last September, Gracie has demonstrated that he is a force to be reckoned with in the MMA world, by scoring wins over established vets like Kevin Randleman, Trevor Prangley and most recently Keith Jardine.
“That’s one of the biggest things; he’s got a big name,” said Smith, while discussing why he looked to secure a fight with Gracie. “I assume, that he was the only big name that was going to take a fight with me.”
“Obviously I’m not a big name, but I’ve been around a long time and everybody knows who I am,” the Nebraska fighter furthered. “This isn’t me being cocky or anything, I just know that everyone else knows that I’m a tough fight with not a lot of reward. I figured that Roger was the only one who was going to take the fight…I knew he was probably the only name that I was actually going to get.”
Due to Gracie’s aforementioned resume, the BJJ black belt will likely be the consensus favorite come Saturday night, despite the fact that Smith is 9-1 in his last 10 fights. In fact, the only men to defeat Smith in his last 15 bouts are Strikeforce middleweight Adlan Amagov and UFC vet Jesse Forbes.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Smith, when asked if he believes some in the MMA world haveoverlooked his recent successes, due to the setbacks he had earlier in his career. “You go to MMA.TV, Google me or whatever, pull it up and see 17-7. That’s usually about as far as people look. If you actually look, I think I have two losses since 2009…no one ever analyzes it that close.”
“It is really frustrating that none of the media or anyone like that, for one, they’re not really giving me a shot, they look at it ‘oh, it’s Roger Gracie, he’s going to run through him,” Smith added. “It’s going to help me because I know Roger’s doing the same thing….One of my friends Jake Ellenberger, he actually translated part of an interview Roger did, and he honestly has no idea who I am.”
And what is “Lionheart’s” take on Gracie’s abilities and the pre-fight analysis that Smith must avoid being taken down to the mat.
“I agree. He’s a fourteen time world champion, twelve of them as a black belt; I mean, there’s no denying what he’s great at,” said Smith. “I don’t think he’s completely evolved as a mixed-martial-artist. I think out of arguably the five or six disciplines that people use for MMA fights, he’s better than me at one of them. My wrestling’s better, my striking’s better, and honestly, I think him on his back, he’s going to have a whole lot of problems.”
“We haven’t really seen Roger on his back a whole lot in fights…no one wants Roger on top of you in a sports jitsu match or a fight, his top game is second to none…I respect his jiu-jitsu but that’s as far as it goes. I’m not afraid of it. I’ve worked really, really hard.”