Smith was nailed with an illegal knee strike late in the fighter, but continued on instead of accepting a DQ win, which is something that Jones is very thankful to the challenger for doing.
“Hat’s off to Anthony Smith for having a ‘Lionheart,'” Jones said at the UFC 235 post-fight press conference (via John Morgan & Matt Erickson of MMA Junkie). “I think the average person would’ve used that as a way out and became a world champion. He was tired, he had been hit with the kitchen sink, and I did an illegal blow. And he decided to allow the fight to continue. And I’m so proud of him for being a real warrior out there and continuing with the fight.”
Jones also wants to reiterate the fact that the illegal strike wasn’t intentionally thrown.
“The first kick, I definitely aimed for his body, and that’s where it landed,” Jones said. “The illegal knee was totally unintentional. In the moment, I felt his body language rising – I felt his body rising. And I felt like I was getting ready to time a great head shot right after he got off of his palm. To my understanding, on his fingertips, he’s considered standing. His body came up, I threw the (knee), and I guess his palm was still down. Totally unintentional.”
If Smith hadn’t continued and the fight ended with a DQ result, it would’ve made him the new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.