By Dane McGuire
Anthony “Lionheart Smith believes he is on deck to fight for the 205 strap as he feels former light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka is rushing his return from a shoulder injury.
The injury led to Prochazka to give up the title. However, new champion Jamahal Hill previously said he’d like to face him in Hill’s first title defense. Hill’s championship victory was a unanimous decision, 50-44 over a now retired Glover Teixeira.
“Glover is out because he retired; (Aleksandar) Rakic is still hurt, I don’t know what’s going on with Jan (Blachowicz) and (Magomed) Ankalaev,” Smith said on the “Believe You Me” podcast with co-host Michael Bisping. “If I had to guess, I’m going to be very honest, I think it’s going to end up being me.
Jiri said on Ariel (Helwani’s) show that he still needed some time, he wanted his body to get right, then Jamahal had a response saying he wants to wait for Jiri, but he needs an answer by April. He wants to know, ‘Are you going or not?’ So I think I’ll fight before then, and I don’t know Jiri is going to be ready. I think he’s rushing it.
“… I think he’s optimistic, and for his sake I hope he is able to fight, because I think he deserves it. He never lost the title. I would love to see Jamahal versus each other, but if it’s not Jiri, I think that I’m the next one to fight. I think I would be next in line.”
Hill has already expressed he hopes Smith gets a title shot at some point even if that means the two friends must face off.
“Nothing would be happier for my brother to get a chance at gold, even if it is against me,” Hill told MMA Junkie. “He’s been around for a long time. He’s been working. He had the hiccup where he broke his ankle, something that was out of his control. Aside from that, he’s been killing it. He put away like three straight contenders, up-and-coming guys, hungry guys.”
Smith joined Hill’s team for multiple days as a backup for the UFC 283 title fight and they formed a friendship. Smith later missed weight however. Hill still would like for Smith to get a shot regardless.
“I hope they wouldn’t hold that weight miss against him just because of the type of notice he had. Plus (he was) coming off an injury, too. People talk about the weight cut. Dude, he just broke his f*cking ankle. (He was) coming off the couch from an injury.”
Smith does not yet have an opponent for his next bout but feels a win should put him in the title picture despite a TKO loss to Magomed Ankalaev at UFC 277 in July.
“No matter what I’ve got to fight one more time, so it’s almost hard to even think about the title right now because I have another task ahead of me, Smith said.
“But he knows and his team knows and his manager to knows I want that belt just as bad a he wanted to win it, and he knows exactly what that means. Anybody who has ever got close to it or fought for it once before or is getting close to it, knows how that burning desire feels like. So there’s no secret there. He knows how I feel,” Smith said.