Anthony Smith is “ready to navigate this whole mess” in the UFC light heavyweight division following an impressive knockout win over Mauricio Rua at UFC Fight Night 134.In the immediate aftermath of Smith’s (30-13 MMA, 6-3 UFC) 89-second finish of Rua (25-11 MMA, 9-9 UFC) in Sunday’s main event, Smith decided to call out Alexander Gustafsson, who was thought to be seeking a noteworthy replacement opponent for UFC 227 next month.Smith’s big challenge was squandered within minutes, though, after MMAjunkie first reported that Gustafsson(18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) withdrew from the Aug. 4 eventat Staples Center in Los Angeles because of a “minor injury.”It wasn’t until Smith, 29, arrived at the UFC Fight Night 134 post-event news conference that he caught wind of Gustafsson’s withdrawal, and at that point he provided an instant reaction.
“That’s ironic, isn’t it?” Smith told reporters. “That’s kind of weird how that works out. He needed an opponent yesterday. What happened between then and now? I don’t know. That’s mighty ironic. I think that I’m a hard guy to train for; I really do. I show up with a different product every time I fight.”
UFC Fight Night 134 took place at Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg. Smith vs. Rua headlined the FS1-televised portion of the card following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.Smith’s knockout of “Shogun” marked his second consecutive finish of a former UFC champion over the past 43 days. He also stopped Rashad Evans in the first roundlast month at UFC 225. At the moment, there are few 205-pounders with more momentum than “Lionheart.”
The Gustafsson fight would have likely propelled Smith into a title challenger position, but with that option off the table for now, Smith said he’s willing to listen to any potential ideas the UFC may have.
“I’ve seen Jimi Manuwa out there Jimi’s a great fighter,” Smith said. “He’s a hell of a striker, he’s powerful, and he’s ranked. He’s ranked pretty high in the division. I’m not 100 percent sure. I’ll let the UFC and my management figure that out. If it’s not Gustafsson, then I don’t know.”
Smith mentioned the possibility of fighting on the UFC’s 25th anniversary card Nov. 10 in Denver. He trains out of Colorado and thinks that event lines up well with his schedule.Prior to the fight with Rua, Smith didn’t believe he was getting his due. Current UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC) mentioned the Brazilian as a potential next title defense but left Smith entirely out of the conversation. That frustrated Smith, but now he feels he can’t be ignored and said dual champ Cormier must figure out his plans.
“I think that’s the first step: We need to figure out if Cormier’s staying or going,” Smith said. “(UFC President) Dana (White) even said this before, ‘I think Daniel is an honorable man.’ It wouldn’t be very honorable to hold up the division. Because he knows right now. You guys can ask him 100 times, and he won’t tell you, but he knows if he’s coming back down or not. I think he needs to make that public so we can figure out what we’re all doing.”For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 134, check out the UFC Events section of the site.