Jacksonville, FL — Former light heavyweight title challenger Anthony Smith returns to the octagon at UFC 261. And like everyone else, “Lionheart” has an opinion on the recent Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren boxing superfight.
Let’s just say he’s not a fan of Paul. Nor does he believe that what Paul is doing is necessarily helping fighters.
“Is he generating money? For sure. But he’s not bringing our pay scale up at all,” Smith (34-16) stated during the UFC 261 media day on Wednesday. “He’s paying himself, and that’s really it. And whatever bum he drags in the fight.”
Paul’s latest sideshow brought in over a million buys on PPV, if you believe the numbers being reported. When it comes down to it, however, the issue Smith, who admitted to purchasing the PPV, has with Paul isn’t him getting an easy payday.
“I’m really about respect, man,” said Smith. “You can say what you want about Ben Askren and his skills and his abilities, but that dude has won multiple world titles in multiple different organizations. He was an Olympic level wrestler, he was a multiple time national champion wrestler. All these people, all these fighters that are walking around here today, if Ben Askren walked into this room, every single f*cking one of those guys would get out of the way, and let him walk through. So the way that Jake Paul talked to him, I have really, really big problems with.”
Smith has his own fight to worry about coming up, however, against Jimmy Crute. For “Lionheart,” the bout is a chance to make it two straight wins, after a rough patch that saw him go 1-3 prior to a win last fall over Devin Clark.
“I like his style, I like his game, I like how he approaches it. He wants to strike and grapple and wrestle, he’s willing to do it all,” Smith observed in regards to Crute. Ultimately, he added, Smith believes that the fight with Crute will be good for his career. A fight that should silence some critics.
“I think the knock on me coming up to the title fight was that I was fighting the older guys. and although while they were Hall of Famers or former champions, I think that the knock was that they were older guys,” said Smith. Of course, you can’t please everyone. After beating Devin Clark, the knock was “oh he’s not that good,” noted Smith. “I think a win over Jimmy Crute legitimizes that I’m as good as I say I am.”
“I don’t give a sh*t who you put in front of me. I’m going to defend my position, and after that, we can get back to climbing,” Smith added.
One thing Anthony Smith is excited for this weekend is the return of fans. UFC 261 is set in the sold-out VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The show will be the first UFC event with a full house since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, just over a year ago.
“That’s what I’m most excited about,” Smith said Wednesday. “I don’t carry a lot of nervous energy or anxiety or anything like that leading into fights, especially the night of the fight. I’ve always relied on the crowd to really give me that energy or just pump that energy into me. I’m really excited to have that back.”
Watch the full UFC 261 media day scrum with Anthony Smith above. The event takes place this Saturday, April 24 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The main card airs live on PPV.