Bellator 245’s Leslie Smith Eyeing Zingano, Budd Fights

On a weekend that saw the debuts of Liz Carmouche and Cat Zingano, it would have been easy to overlook Leslie Smith’s featherweight scrap against Amanda Bell at Bellator 245. “The Peacemaker” ensured that wasn’t the case, however, earning a dominant unanimous decision against Bell.

Smith (12-8-1) entered the fight 1-1 in Bellator, off a loss to Arelene Blencowe, who will be the next woman to face featherweight champ Cris Cyborg. Back in the win column, she’s put herself in line for a higher profile fight — with Zingano and former champ Julia Budd names that immediately come to mind.

“I want to fight someone higher up. I want to fight someone who’s going to set me up to move up, and to get a little bit more out of the whole experience,” Smith said following Friday’s event, speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press.

Zingano was the name that was immediately suggested. “It would be an honor to get to fight her, [or] to fight Julia Budd,” said Smith. “I know I need to get another win before I can throw my name into the hat for the title shot, but of course that is the ultimate goal.”

It was very important to put on an impressive performance Friday, Smith added, given the last time she fought on a card with two women’s featherweight bouts, the winners were paired up. Logistically, that very much makes sense, with Cyborg already occupied.

“I hope that it’s Cat Zingano,” Smith admitted. The pair both started out in Colorado, recalled Smith. “At the time, she was Cat Albert. I totally had my eye on her. I feel like it would be a pretty cool thing of a big circle coming around if I get to— when I get to fight her. I’m going to speak it into existence: I think it’s going to be cool when I get to fight her. Hopefully that’s going to happen before this year is over.”

As for her performance Friday, Smith appeared pleased overall. “There’s some stuff that I’ve been working on for eight years, and I was able to put it together and do it in this fight,” she said.

The lack of a crowd may have worked to her advantage, she added. “I love the crowd, but I think I was able to slow things down a little more.” Going too slow, at times, was also “kind of a downfall too,” however. “I think that was one of the mistakes that I made, being able to switch from being like ‘okay I’m on the outside, I’m doing this’ and then being able to go in. I would have liked to have been able to make that switch a little faster.”

One of the big stories heading into the fight was Bell missing weight. While she tried to make amends during the face-offs ahead of the fight, saying she meant no disrespect, Smith was having none of it.

“Honestly, she didn’t make weight and I got a percentage of her purse. I get a little salty,” explained Smith. “I had some bad experiences with people not making weight. Three out of four, something like that, of the last people I’ve fought or have been lined up to fight haven’t made weight. It’s just disrespectful no matter how you look at it.”

“I know there’s a lot of different situations going on, we’re in a pandemic. I know she’s from Oregon, where there’s a lot of wild fires,” Smith allowed. “We were cool after the fight, but I would just like to be able to fight somebody who comes in like a professional, and not have any of those extra emotions, ever.”