01 Jan Anthony Smith: I won’t ‘obsess’ over Jon Jones rematch, Thiago Santos is ‘the one I really want’
Anthony Smith understands the lay of the land in the light heavyweight division.
After rattling off three straight wins at 205 pounds, the Nebraska native was granted a title shot against Jon Jones in 2019. He came up short in his bid to become champion but Smith bounced back rather quickly with a resounding victory over multi-time title contender Alexander Gustafsson.
Now as he prepares to face Glover Teixeira in the main event at UFC Jacksonville on Wednesday night, Smith knows a win will vault him right back into title contention, although another shot at Jones probably won’t happen right away.
Right now, Jones hasn’t determined his next opponent but it will likely come down to a rematch against Dominick Reyes or a new fight with Jan Blachowicz. The odd man out in that scenario would then become the de facto No. 1 contender.
Regardless of who gets the next shot at Jones and the title, Smith isn’t going to waste a lot of time thinking about that rematch, especially when a change in focus really messed with his head the last time around.
“I’m not going to obsess over Jon Jones,” Smith told MMA Fighting. “The one time that my mindset went from trying to impress myself and put in performances that I could be proud of, the one time that it didn’t and it became about proving everyone else wrong and it became more about what comes with the title was the time I got burned. That was Jon Jones.
“If I’m on my game mentally, I don’t think anybody can beat me. But if things start to waiver a little bit, my mindset is in the wrong place, that’s where you’re going to screw yourself. That’s really what I’m focused on. If I’m focused on me and doing what I want to do, and not getting wrapped up in all the other bullsh*t.”
While a rematch with Jones will undoubtedly come with enough wins in the division, Smith only sees a couple of options available to him should he get past Teixeira on Wednesday.
He could get the loser in the Jones’ sweepstakes and request a fight against either Reyes or Blachowicz. But there’s one other matchup in the division that intrigues him more than any other.
“The Thiago Santos fight is the one I really want,” Smith said. “But those circumstances have to be right. I think Thiago, myself and our management all agree on that scenario. It’s been talked internally between the four of us. Those circumstances have to be right.”
Smith battled Santos in a “Fight of the Night” performance back in 2018. The brutal war that took place at middleweight ended after Santos cracked Smith with a devastating kick to the body that ultimately stopped the fight.
Despite barely spending six-minutes in the cage together, Smith and Santos left the octagon that night bloody and bruised with a real respect gained between them. In fact, Smith says he shared the appreciation for that absolute war while sitting next to Santos on a gurney as they both got attended to by medical personnel.
“You saw how the first round and a half went,” Smith explained. “It was f*cking chaos. I’m not giving up. He’s not giving up. We hit each other with elbows. We dropped each other. He head kicked me. I had him mounted. We laid next to each other fist bumping getting our faces stitched back together.”
Because the first fight took so much out of them, Smith knows a rematch would likely result in a similar outcome, which is why he’s already talked to Santos about the conditions they’d require to meet again.
“That’s a fight that both of us agree has to happen again,” Smith said. “The problem is the way Thiago and I fight, I don’t want to sound super morbid or whatever, but here’s the reality of the situation: When Thiago Santos and I walk into a cage again and we get locked in another octagon, neither one of us are going to leave there whole. He knows that and I know that. We’re not going to be the same person as we were when we walked in.
“Best case scenario, one of us gets to the title first. Then if we go in there and we just end up f*cking ourselves up and we come out a little bit different that we were before, then fine. Cause at least it meant something. It’s got to mean something.”