A seemingly innocuous pre-fight hype video ultimately helped lead Maurice Smith to the UFC Hall of Fame.
As MMAjunkie first reported this past week, Smith is the second confirmed member of the 2017 class, which also features Urijah Faber.
Smith (14-14 MMA, 4-3 UFC), who in 1997 became just the second man to claim the UFC heavyweight title, is the 13th fighter to join the Pioneer wing of the hall of fame. He’ll be inducted on July 6 during UFC International Fight Week festivities in Las Vegas.
The 55-year-old was a decorated kickboxer even before entering the UFC octagon. While wrestlers and jiu-jitsu specialists ruled the early UFC days, Smith told MMAjunkie Radio he had one important strength that many other early-UFC fighters didn’t: “Getting hit didn’t faze me.”
Still, until he fought Mark Coleman at UFC 14 and ultimately picked up a unanimous-decision title victory, strikers hadn’t come into their own. But Smith needed a worthy foe to help change that, which is why he said he considers his induction a two-man entry.
“It’s not just me; it’s I and Mark,” he said. “We changed the game of MMA. Me, being the fact that I was in great condition and being a striker and what have you. Up util that point, it was predominantly a grappler’s game. … And then I came in and had enough knowledge to survive and push the game a lot more with the conditioning aspect.”
His gas tank played a pivotal part in that Coleman fight. Watch for yourself:
It wasn’t until years after their fight that Smith and Coleman finally spoke to each other about it. It was in Toronto, where Smith was training Gary Goodridge for a fight. Coleman was there, and according to Smith, they “talked for hours actually.”
Such a conversation seemed unlikely two decades ago, when their UFC 14 fight took place in Birmingham, Ala.
“The thing with Mark in that fight was if you saw the whole (event), there was an interview we had before – a pre-hype interview,” he said. “When I made the statement about he hits like a girl with the hammerfists and that stuff, Mark went into the fight very emotional. He was emotionally into the fight, and he had all of this anger and hatred – as a fighter – toward me. And it actually played against his advantage.”
While pre-fight trash-talk seems a staple of MMA these days, that wasn’t always the case back then. Smith perhaps underestimated the role it would play. Sure, his striking, conditioning and composure were vital, but Smith said that video definitely played a part.
“The pre-hype video actually probably won the fight for me because Mark was very emotional for that,” he said. “OK, it helped – it contributed to me winning the fight. I’ll put it that way.”
Check out the full conversation above.
And for more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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