Daniel Cormier may have unintentionally created one of the next title challengers in the light heavyweight division.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will take on rising light heavyweight prospect Anthony “Lionheart” Smith in the main event of UFC Hamburg this weekend (Sunday, July 22nd, 2018).
Smith is coming off an impressive KO over former champ Rashad Evans at June’s UFC 225, a performance that “Lionheart” has parlayed straight into a short notice main event fight with former light heavyweight champ “Shogun” Rua.
Rua, on the other hand, has had a bit of a resurgence as of late. The Brazilian is riding a three-fight win streak, and with an impressive performance could be looking at another title shot, at least according to Cormier.
For Smith, the chance to main event a UFC card against a legend like “Shogun” is validation that all his hard work is starting to pay off, along with his new outlook on life.
“Since I moved up to 205, the weight is no longer an issue, and the name literally doesn’t matter,” Smith told MMAjunkie Radio on Monday. “You could have said it’s Brock Lesnar, and I would have had the same reaction.”
The move to 205 pounds has been a long time coming for the Nebraska native. Smith is every bit of his 6’4″ frame and could easily compete in the heavyweight division if he chose to.
Still, “Lionheart” doesn’t foresee Rua standing and trading with him for too long anyway.
“He’s not an idiot, and he knows if you look at my record, I have the ability to knock you out with anything,” Smith said. “And I’m younger, and I’m going to be bigger than he is.”
“You can’t let ‘Shogun’ bully you and push you around in there,” Smith added. “If you meet ‘Shogun’ in the middle, there’s going to be two bulls running into each other, and we’re going to figure out which one is bigger. And I’m OK with that.”
Much is still to be decided in Hamburg, however, “DC’s” comments leave much to be desired.
That is, if “Shogun wins impressively then he deserves a light heavyweight title shot, but if Smith is victorious he believes he should be the next man to challenge the new champ-champ for the 205-pound strap. In that sense, Smith thinks Cormier unintentionally made him a title contender:
“If he thinks ‘Shogun’ is the next guy, and I beat him, then I think rightfully, he gave me the opportunity to put my hand up,” Smith explained. “I think that he did that for me, and I don’t even know if he realizes that.”
“He isn’t excited about the Gustafsson fight, whether it’s a money thing or a new match-up. I think I’m a fresh face, and that’s an exciting match-up for the fans, me versus ‘DC.’ But I haven’t even thought about that right now.”
Smith made quick work of former champion Rashad Evans at UFC 225, thus igniting the talk of the “Lionheart” being a modern day legend killer.
“The whole legend killer thing is cool,” Smith said. “That’s the thing people are attaching to me, but eventually, people are going to wonder how I’m going to fare with guys who are closer to my age.”