Where Are They Now? Maurice Smith
By Kelsey Mowatt
While MMA fans may remember Maurice Smith best for his thrilling, head kick win over Marcus Silveira at Extreme Fighting 3, defeating the seemingly unstoppable Mark Coleman at UFC 14, or returning to action in 2007 and stopping Marco Ruas for the second time, the decorated fighter could add to that list just yet. Recently Smith revealed to FCF that he intends on returning to action sometime this year, contravening any notion that the former UFC heavyweight champion is retired.
“I’m trying to do a couple more fights,” said Smith, who has also battled other MMA legends like Bas Rutten, Ken Shamrock and Randy Couture during his lengthy career. “I want to fight two more years, maybe six more fights; then I want to retire.”
Not only is Smith interested in fighting a couple times before the year is up, he’d like to fight sometime this summer if possible.
“It’s not always the fighters, it’s also up to the promoters to call,” the Seattle resident added. “After I lost to (Hidehiko) Yoshida nobody called. If I had won I would have probably gone back to Sengoku. When you’re hot, you’re hot, when you’re not, you’re not.”
When Smith competes for the first time since he lost to the aforementioned Yoshida in June, 2008, the decorated fighter will do so at the age of 49.
“I know people will say ‘we’ll how old are you?’ But age isn’t that big of a deal,” said Smith, who several months before fighting Yoshida, submitted fellow kickboxing vet Rick Roufus while competing for Strikeforce. “You can look at it two fold; a young guy can go in there with no experience and get his ass kicked. An old guy with lots of experience can go in there and not get his ass kicked; so age is not the mitigating factor for me.”
Although several years have elapsed since Smith last competed, the fighter has continued to hone his skills, be it through his own training regiment, instructing other pro fighters, or teaching classes at the gym of fellow UFC vet Ivan Salaverry.
“I can say that I’m the same fighter as far as my striking is concerned, but I will say my grappling has improved a little bit more,” said Smith. “That would have happened if I was still fighting; if you’re still training, you’re training. So you can only get better if you want to get better…Really I can talk about it all I like but it will just come down to my performance.”
Since Smith transitioned into mixed-martial-arts in 1993 the sport’s popularity has changed dramatically, growing from relative obscurity to arguably mainstream status.
“I always hoped that it would be,” Smith said when asked if he ever believed that MMA would become as big as it is today. “When I was with K-1 I hoped that it would become this big sport too and it didn’t happen. So you never know what’s going to take over. Boxing is ingrained in American culture, kickboxing never did, but shockingly with MMA it did. Did I see it? No. But I always was hoping for it.”
Of course, Smith has also witnessed many promotions come-and-go during his career, including the International Fight League, where he served as the head coach for Seattle’s Tiger Sharks team.
“Has the UFC completely monopolized the sport? Not yet,” said Smith, while discussing whether Zuffa’s reach throughout the sport has grown to where it constitutes a monopoly. “Of course if they buy a couple other companies that are considered competition then of course it’s a monopoly, but they worked their buts off to get what they’ve got. Now it’s up to other people to come up and challenge them.”
Although Smith still hopes to add to his extensive resume, when the Pancrase veteran looks back on what he’s accomplished to date, one particular aspect of his storied career stands out.
“I think me being a kickboxer and getting into MMA; being the first legitimate striker to win titles twice over at Battlecade and the UFC,” Smith said. “I’d say my proudest accomplishment is that I was part of the evolution of fighting. From my striking, to getting involved with grappling, to becoming a MMA fighter; that is what I’d say I enjoyed the most.”
Photo courtesy Brett Atchely / Maurice Smith