Anthony Smith is competing this weekend at UFC Fight Night Pittsburgh, facing former Bellator MMA Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard.
The middleweight doesn’t mind the challenge Lombard brings to the cage, but he also feels the top 15 ranked fighters in the middleweight division are just protecting each other.
“It’s not that I didn’t want to fight Hector,” said Smith to MMA Fighting. “I had to fight Hector because he’s the only guy that said yes. The middleweight division is in a real weird place right now. All the ranked guys are doing a really good job of protecting each other. And I’m not even sure if that’s a conscious thing that they’re doing, but they’re not fighting anyone else that isn’t ranked. They’re just doing this round robin of fighting each other and I don’t know how the f**k anyone’s supposed to get inside (the top 15 of) the rankings, if no one inside will fight someone outside of it. I get the mindset of wanting to work your way up the ladder and fight guys that are ranked, but if you come off a couple of losses and you’re ranked 10-15, then you’ve got to start fighting guys outside the rankings and give some of us opportunities to get in there, or else we’re all just spinning our wheels here.”
Smith has found some success in his second run with the UFC, while Lombard has never found is footing in the promotion.
A win on Saturday Night is going to get a lot of eyes on Smith, who feels like the UFC is starting to notice him a little more.
“I feel like the UFC is kind of seeing me now, like here’s the big name we want and here’s the main card spot that we think you deserve. So that’s exciting for sure.” said Smith. “I feel like they’re giving me the opportunities that I’ve always asked for. If you give me the opportunity and I f**k it up, then that’s on me. That’s all I ever wanted. I want my career in my own hands.”
UFC Fight Night Pittsburgh takes place on Saturday, September 16 from the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with Luke Rockhold and David Branch headlining. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, which airs live on Fox Sports 1.