Even before Anthony Smith’s UFC Hamburg headlining bout with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua on Sunday, he was saying that, should he win, he wanted to make another quick turnaround and fight Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 227 on Aug. 4 in Los Angeles. Gustafsson was without an opponent after his latest match-up, Volkan Oezdemir, had to withdraw because of an injury.
Smith stepping in is no longer an option.
Although Smith held up his end of the bargain, knocking the former UFC light heavyweight champion slightly more than a minute into their fight, Gustafsson removed himself from the equation.
As post-fight coverage was getting underway, news broke with UFC officials confirming that Gustaffson withdrew from the UFC 227 fight card because of an undisclosed injury. With the timing of the news, Smith found it a little hard to swallow.
“Well, that’s ironic, isn’t it? It’s kind of weird how that works out. He needed an opponent yesterday. What happened between then and now?” Smith asked at the UFC Fight Night 134 post-fight press conference. “That’s mighty ironic.”
With the Gustafsson fight off the table, Smith isn’t sure what’s next for him. Though he was willing to take the fight with Gustafsson on just a couple weeks notice after having defeated Rashad Evans on June 9 and Shogun on July 22, which means it would have been his third fight in two months, Smith is now resigned to letting the powers that be figure out his next move while he returns home to his family.
“I seen Jimi Manuwa out there (in the Hamburg crowd),” Smith said. “Jimi’s a great fighter, but I’m not 100 percent sure. I’ll let the UFC and my management figure that out. I think there’s that Denver card that would be pretty cool. I train there.”
Beyond the fight with Gustafsson, Smith hadn’t given a lot of thought to what other match-ups make sense for him, as the top of the 205-pound division is currently undergoing a massive shake-up. Gustafsson has been at the top for quite some time, despite being more than a year removed from his last bout, and with top contenders Glover Teixeira and Shogun losing on Sunday, it may take a minute for the division to take shape, particularly with champion Daniel Cormier not saying if he will defend the belt again or not before retiring in March of 2019.
“No one knows what’s going on with Cormier. I think that’s the first step; we need to figure out if Cormier is staying or going,” said Smith.
Cormier took the UFC heavyweight title from Stipe Miocic at UFC 226 earlier this month and immediately began building up a fight with WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, though he has yet to commit to whether or not he will also defend his light heavyweight title before stepping away from the sport.
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“I said this before, I think that Daniel is an honorable man. It wouldn’t be a very honorable thing for him to hold up the division, knowing… because he knows if he’s coming back or not. You guys can ask him a hundred times and he won’t tell you, but he knows if he’s coming back down or not. I think that he needs to make that public so we can figure out what we’re all doing,” Smith continued.
“I don’t know how injured Gus is right now or what’s going on there, but I don’t know. Just kind of let it shake out over the next week or so I’d imagine.”