At the start of his latest fight camp, Devin Clark had been sitting down with teammate Jon Jones to break down opponent Shamil Gamzatov. It was then that he got the phone call: Gamzatov was out. Former light heavyweight title challenger Anthony Smith was stepping in.
“We just changed up who was on the screen, and ended up game planning for Anthony in the moment,” Clark (12-4) said during the UFC Vegas 15 media day on Wednesday.
The match-up with Smith is unquestionably a bigger fight with a bigger name. And Clark is approaching it as such. “I was trying to train hard, but at the same time, it’s a big fight for me. Life changing fight,” he admitted. “Something that will lead me to what I promised myself when I started fighting, the UFC championship belt.” A win over Smith puts him one step closer to that goal, said Clark, who believes that the correct outcome could lead to some coveted rematches with Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic.
It has not been an easy camp, however. Clark enters this fight having had to endure the loss of his mother-in-law. “It’s super tough. To finish camp and just not pack up my bags and go home and hug my wife, my daughter, and console them was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do as a husband, as a father, as a man,” Clark told the media. “Super difficult time. But with that being said, my whole family, we’re all in for this fight. Including my mother-in-law. Before she passed, she gave me her blessing to go out there and beat up Anthony in the first round and finish him right away. She wanted me to stay and fight, that’s what we’re doing, also with my wife’s blessing.”
Between the pandemic and the personal loss, 2020 has been rough, but for Clark, on the professional side, everything seems to be clicking. That’s something he credits to “just training, and sticking to the game plan and staying patient.” It’s really easy, he noted, when you’re going through some losses and ups and downs, lacking support, to see your confidence rise and fall as well. “Even just being ten fights in and still being on prelims and stuff like that, the confidence can go up and down,” he stated. But just staying patient and knowing where his career can take him, plus his drive to be one of the best ever, has kept him on the right path.
As for a win on Saturday, “who knows where it will lead.” Clark is still looking to those aforementioned rematches, fights in which he was a “much younger fighter with less experience.” But whoever else wants to fight, Devin Clark is down. “If Izzy brings his little skinny butt up to 205, we’ll see what happens. I would love to hit him in the face.”
Watch the full UFC Vegas 15 virtual media day press scrum with Devin Clark above. The event takes place this Saturday, November 28, airing live on ESPN. The main card kicks off at 10PM ET.