Just moments after Anthony Smith scored the biggest win of his career by knocking out Mauricio Rua at UFC Hamburg on Sunday afternoon, the newly minted light heavyweight contender offered to step and replace the injured Volkan Oezdemir next month against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 227.
Unfortunately for Smith, Gustafsson quickly announced that he, too, was pulling out of the event due to a minor injury — a coincidence that Smith seems skeptical of.
“That’s ironic, isn’t it?” Smith said at the UFC Hamburg post-fight press conference. “It’s kinda weird how that works out. He needed an opponent yesterday. What happened between then and now? I don’t know, but that’s mighty ironic.”
Gustafsson’s injury is an unfortunate turn for Smith, who is coming off back-to-back KOs over former UFC champions in as many months. A victory over Gustafsson could have catapulted “Lionheart” to the front of the muddled light heavyweight title picture. Now though, Smith will have to settle for another ranked light heavyweight, preferably on the UFC Denver card in November.
“I saw Jimi Manuwa out there,” Smith said. “Jimi’s a great fighter. He’s a hell of a striker, he’s powerful, and 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 not Gustafsson, then I don’t know.
“I called my shot after the Rashad fight, that I wanted to fight at UFC Lincoln, and that didn’t work out, so I don’t want to put my name on anything yet, but I think there’s that Denver card that would be pretty cool. I train in Denver, that’s where my team is, I spend a lot of time there so I think Denver would be cool. We’re just gonna enjoy this one for now, and it sounds like the Gus thing is off the table, so we’ll just go from there.”
Altogether, the question of what comes next is up in the air considering the current state of the UFC light heavyweight division. With Jon Jones’ return to the division still uncertain and Daniel Cormier now splitting time as the champion of both light heavyweight and heavyweight, the rest of the 205-pound division is left in waiting, said Smtih, especially since the only semblance of a plan that had been vocalized — Cormier wanting to defend his belt against ‘Shogun’ — just got obliterated by Smith’s hands and elbows.
“I know that DC wanted to fight ‘Shogun’ for whatever reason and completely looked past me,” Smith said. “I said this last week, let them keep talking about each other, but the whole topic of the conversation is gonna change after this fight and I think that’s where we’re at right now.
“The top of the division is a disaster right now. ‘Shogun’ was supposed to be next and now he’s not. No one knows what’s going on with Cormier. I think that that’s the first step, we need to figure out if Cormier’s staying or going. I’ve said this before, I think that Daniel is an honorable man and it wouldn’t be a very honorable thing to do to hold up the division. He knows right now. You guys could ask him 100 times and he won’t tell you, but he knows if he’s coming back down or not, and I think that he needs to make that public so we can figure out what we’re all doing.”