Anthony Smith thinks Jon Jones has been placed on a pedestal by the world of mixed martial arts.
Like all-time greats Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva before him, Smith said, Jones was ahead of his time when he joined the UFC, capturing the sport’s attention with a unique style and racking up wins over the best light heavyweights in the world.
But even after nearly a decade of Jones’ dominance, Smith refuses to buy into the hype.
“Once you get so far ahead of everyone, it’s almost like they get to stay there because everyone else is putting them on a pedestal. But my brain won’t allow me to put Jon on a pedestal, it just doesn’t work like that,” Smith said. “He’s a phenomenal fighter and a great athlete and he’s beaten a lot of good guys, so he’s earned that pedestal he’s on, but I’m not the one who’s going to put him on it.”
Smith hopes to end Jones’ reign while adding his own name to the list of UFC giant-killers when the pair meets for the light heavyweight title at UFC 235 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Jones (23-1, 1 NC), considered among the greatest fighters of all-time, is easily the biggest favorite on the card at -1100, according to Westgate Las Vegas. Smith is the biggest underdog at +700.
Smith (31-13) believes he’s identified weaknesses in Jones that others have before him, but that he will be uniquely equipped to handle the physical and mental challenge of facing the light heavyweight champion.
“I think the same things that I see in Jon’s tendencies and holes are the same thing that everybody sees, I’m just going to be the first one to be able to execute on it. I think a lot of that’s mental and some of that’s physical. I match Jon physically in size and athleticism, which isn’t something a lot of guys can say other than [Alexander] Gustafsson,” said Smith. “But I also match him mentally. I think a lot of people get caught watching him and get wrapped up in the mystique of Jon Jones and his aura and presence. I think that there’s probably nobody on this planet that says they think that will happen with me.”
MMA’s greatest legends have suffered shocking defeats before, as seen when St-Pierre and Silva lost their titles during the prime of their careers to a pair of Long Islanders in Matt Serra and Chris Weidman, respectively. Smith said the key for Serra and Weidman in those bouts was to focus on what they do best and not get caught up in the hype of a marquee opponent, something he aims to emulate Saturday.
“It comes down to sticking with what got you to the dance. I think a lot of people go and fight Jon and they want to switch things up and they want to do things different and want to stand back, watch what he wants to do and deal with it. I don’t fight like that. Chris Weidman doesn’t fight like that, Matt Serra didn’t fight like that. They brought the fight to those guys,” Smith said. “Chris Weidman didn’t sit back and wait to see what Anderson Silva was going to do. He went in there, he bit down on his damn mouthpiece, he walked forward and he took out the best fighter in the world, and Matt Serra did the same thing.
“And both of those guys said the exact same thing that I’m saying now. I don’t care about what Jon Jones has done, I don’t care who he’s beat, I don’t care how great he is or how great you say he is, he’s never done any of those things against Anthony Smith, and until he does, he’s not going to get my respect.”