Leslie Smith will make her Bellator MMA debut at Bellator 224 in July, on a card headlined by featherweight champ Julia Budd.
Former UFC fighter, and Project Spearhead founder Leslie Smith has her Bellator debut date and opponent set. On Tuesday, MMA Fighting reported that Smith, a.k.a. ‘The Peacemaker,’ would face featherweight Sinead Kavanagh at Bellator 224 in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The 145lb battle will be Smith’s first since parting ways with the UFC following a Fight Night event in Atlantic City last year.
Smith’s less than pleasant exit from the UFC made headlines in April 2018. Fighting for the rights of UFC athletes, and working to prove that UFC fighters are employees, not independent contractors, no doubt drew the ire of promotion officials. However, the end came when Smith’s scheduled opponent at UFC Atlantic City, Aspen Ladd, missed weight. Smith tried to re-negotiate her deal on the spot, but the UFC refused to play ball, and simply paid out her contract, opting not to re-sign her. The Ladd fight never happened, and Smith was out of a job.
It remained that way until April, when Smith joined Bellator MMA.
As Bellator lacks a 135lb division for women, she’ll be joining the featherweight ranks in her new home. That shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, however. Smith was one of the lucky contestants to face Cris Cyborg at a 140lb catchweight in the UFC. She also fought at featherweight on the regional scene in 2011.
Smith finished her UFC career at 4-3, on a two fight win streak with victories over Irene Aldana and Amanda Lemos. Prior to the UFC, she was a regular in Invicta FC, appearing at every Invicta FC event from the promotion’s inaugural show through to Invicta FC 7, with the lone exception of Invicta FC 2.
Sinead Kavanagh, meanwhile, is 2-3 under the Bellator banner after joining the promotion from BAMMA. 5-3 as a pro, she will enter the fight with Smith off a loss to Janay Harding.
Interestingly, Bellator 224 is headlined by featherweight champ Julia Budd defending her title against the undefeated Olga Rubin. Given Smith’s stature in the sport, a win could easily punch her ticket to a title shot. The event takes place at the WinStar World Casino and Resort on July 12.