When Anthony Smith returns to the octagon on Saturday night, it will once again be at 205lbs. Despite two straight losses, and having suggested after his last loss that he might return to his old stomping ground of 185, the former light heavyweight title challenger ultimately decided against shedding the weight.
Speaking at the UFC Vegas 15 media day this week, Smith (33-16), now 32 years old, admitted that “initially I was having some issues, at least thinking about what weight class I wanted to stay in, and whether I wanted to go down, or whether I wanted to get bigger or whatever.” One of the more open and accessible fighters around when it comes to media — in part perhaps because he’s now part of that media — Smith added that “that was just my thoughts in that moment. Obviously after getting home and thinking about it, and considering cutting back down to 185, I immediately remembered how bad that was. So I just decided to get stronger, and try to put on a little bit more weight.”
Rather than go down, in other words, Smith opted to go up — just a little. “I was able to put on a little bit, but putting on good healthy lean weight is really really hard, and it’s a slow process,” he explained ahead of his fight with Devin Clark. “I’m much stronger, and a little bit bigger. Not a bunch, but I definitely added some strength. That’s why I’m still here at 205.”
What Smith has improved since his defeats to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic is more than just his physical stature. “I kind of reworked everything. It’s not just the strength and the size,” said Smith. “It’s a lot about my mental work. A few years ago I did a better job of managing a lot of the mental side of the game. But I think that as everything took off and I got so busy, I think that’s one of the things that kind of got thrown to the side, and I didn’t manage it or organize my mental game very well.”
As he went on to put it, “I think I just kind of got caught in a bad storm.” Which led to doing some things different during his most recent training camp.
That included taking a break from his analyst work with ESPN. And cutting back on both his radio show and podcast as well. “I just took a lot of things off my plate, and fortunately, I have a lot of people to help me pick up the slack on that, and pick up the pieces that I’m not doing.”
All of which gave him more time to talk to his therapist, manage his thoughts, and avoid brain drain. “You get so much stuff going on in your head. I’m a father of three, I’m married, and you’ve got all the duties and responsibilities that come along with that on top of training camp, and again all those other things that I have on my plate: the analyst stuff, my podcast, the radio show. I just needed to manage that and organize it better, and I think I did a really good job of doing that this training camp.”
He’ll need that mental fortitude. On Friday, with Curtis Blaydes falling off the UFC Vegas 15 card due to a positive COVID-19 test, Smith’s fight against Devin Clark was promoted. It will now serve as the evening’s five-round main event.
Watch the full UFC Vegas 15 virtual media day press scrum with Anthony Smith above. The event takes place this Saturday, November 28, airing live on ESPN. The main card kicks off at 10PM ET.