In the lead-up to last Saturday’s fight against Volkan Oezdemir at UFC Fight Night 138, Anthony Smith planted the seeds of wanting to face Jon Jones for the light heavyweight championship if Jones goes on to defeat Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232.
Smith completed phase one of the process when he submitted Oezdemir in the third round at UFC Fight Night 138. And while he waits to see if Jones can make his comeback a successful one at the end of the year, “Lionheart” has gone on the offensive. Although Smith recognizes Jones as one of the pound for pound best fighters in the world, the 30-year-old questions the former champion’s integrity after two failed drug tests cost him part of his fighting career.
“Yeah, I do (think Jon Jones is a cheater), Smith told Sporting News. “But that’s not why I want to fight him. I want to fight him because he is the greatest to ever do it. I think that I have the skills to beat him. Point blank. Do I think Jon Jones is a cheater? I do.”
Those transgressions aside, Jones remains one of the biggest draws in the UFC. Although Smith finds value in what Jones brings to the table as an attraction, he believes that his actions have damaged the sport that he competes in.
“As far as his popularity and bringing eyeballs, Jon is definitely good for the sport,” Smith said. “As far as integrity goes and what he’s done strictly in the sport, I won’t speak on the things Jon’s done in personal life because that’s his own personal business. But for what he’s done inside the cage with the failed drug tests, Jon has definitely hurt the integrity of the sport.”
The win over Oezdemir ran Smith’s record as a light heavyweight to 3-0, which started with back-to-back knockout wins of former champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. With the division being relatively thin and Smith knocking off the #2 ranked fighter, the only thing left is a title shot.
“I don’t know what else I have to do,” Smith said. “And the way that I fight, it’s really not cohesive with longevity. I just have a really violent style and I throw myself in the fire. I’ve put the work in. I’ve been around this game a long time. I think it is my turn. The same three or four guys have playing round robin at the top of the division for five years. Everybody has seen that show. I think that it’s time to get some new blood in there. Volkan had his shot and didn’t go his way. I’m sure at some point he’ll be back. But this is my time now. I beat two former champions and I just took out the No. 2-ranked guy. The only men above Volkan are the two guys fighting for the title. I think it’s my turn.”
Jones vs. Gustafsson is rematch of their classic bout at UFC 165, which Jones won by a close unanimous decision. When pressed to pick a winner of the UFC 232 main event, Smith believes that “Bones” will repeat what he accomplished five years ago. But Smith doesn’t just want Jones to win, he needs him to win.
“I think Jon gets it done,” Smith said. “I need Jon Jones to win. I can feel it in my bones and inside my soul that I can beat Jon Jones. I know I can. I’ve always thought that. Regardless of how silly it sounds to everybody else, if it sounds silly to you, that’s why those people will never be great. It’s not an unattainable task and I want to be the first guy to take out Jon Jones.”