Interview From The Vault: Jimmy Smith

Interview From The Vault: Jimmy Smith

As I wait for my next new interview, I thought I would go back in time and look at some old ones I have previously done. Earlier this year I did an interview with Jimmy Smith.

Jimmy Smith a former MMA fighter and long time Bellator commentator has kindly given his time in giving me an interview:

MMAUK: You are better known as a commentator but you also fought in MMA as well going 5-1, including fights with Andy Wang and James Wilks, why did you retire?

Jimmy: That’s a complicated question. I didn’t really make a decision to retire as much as my schedule didn’t allow me the time to train full-time anytime. Once I got the Fight Quest gig, that took about 1 1/2 years to complete the 13 episodes, then I got my gig with M1 commentating for them, and finally Bellator. I’ve been on the road for the better part of the last 10 years. I just didn’t have time to do MMA or competition BJJ anymore

MMAUK: While you were fighting was it hard financially, did you have to hold down a job as well?

JIMMY: Yeah, fighting didn’t pay much at the time. My first fight I got paid 150$ if I remember correctly. I worked for a school district testing kids and teaching most of the time. I would train in the evenings.

MMAUK: How did you get in working as a commentator?

JIMMY: I got my start when I got a random message from Jerry Millen. He was the VP over at Pride and was now producing M1. He needed a commentator and had seen my show on Discovery and decided to give me a try. I was in Amsterdam the next week calling my first fight

MMAUK: You worked in the Affliction promotion, there were some mega shows, including fights featuring Fedor Emelianenko, what was it like working with that promotion?

JIMMY: Affliction was a big show, so that was exciting. It was also a bit chaotic because it was so large and it was the first time the promoters had tried to do anything like this. They tried some interesting things: the backstage interviews, Megadeath performing live etc. You really had to roll with the punches in terms of production. The fights were great and that’s what really matters.

MMAUK: How did the move to Bellator come about?

JIMMY: M1 was winding down in terms of their US exposure and we knew I wasn’t going to be working for them much longer. A bunch of the people who had worked with me at M1 had gone over to Bellator and when they needed a commentator those people recommended me. I did a phone interview with Bjorn and I was flying to New York the next week to meet the crew.

MMAUK: What’s the major difference in Bellator since Bjorn left and Scott Coker came in?

JIMMY: The major difference is that Bjorn had a tendency to micromanage. He would be in everyone’s ear about what he thought should be done about EVERYTHING. Scott Coker doesn’t work that way. He does his thing: fighter contracts, venue deals etc. and lets everyone do their job. Much more relaxing environment.

MMAUK: I used to like the tournament format, but did feel it was over done. It would have worked better with less per season, do you agree?

JIMMY: The tournament system was tough promotionally speaking. Its hard to get behind and promote any single fighter when you don’t know if he is going to be around the following week. I remember talking about fight card where we had no idea who was fighting because the first round of the tournament hadn’t happened yet. Also injures and weight issues made it unlikely that the guys who started the tournament would finish it

MMAUK: I like the Bellator product, but while I understand while they use Sonnen, Shamrock, Gracie and such, I hope the promotion signs more fighter’s like Phil Davis and Rory MacDonald who are in their primes?

JIMMY: Some fighters will undoubtedly leave the UFC and come to Bellator, but what people have to understand is that the contracts they sign are tough to get out of. The job of ANY promotion (not just the UFC) is to keep their talent fighting for them as long as they can get any value out of them. A fighter can’t just leave in the middle of their contract because they don’t like some aspect of their compensation (the Reebok deal etc). The tricky part of free agency is that there is typically a VERY narrow window between contracts when a fighter can test the waters and its always a bit risky.

MMAUK: Bellator has a good stable of UK fighters on the roster, but even though Spike do show Bellator in the UK, it’s on a week delay sometimes which is obviously frustrating, will that change in the near future?

JIMMY: Man I hope so! I get a lot of messages from UK fans about not being able to see the show live and I think that’s a shame considering all of the UK talent we have

MMAUK: When on air you don’t seem to have a problem mentioning the competition on air, which I find refreshing?

JIMMY: I can talk about whatever I want on air. Bellator has never has a problem with us discussing a UFC fight or fighter on air. Its great we can talk about the whole MMA world.

MMAUK: Elsewhere in the MMA world, where has it all gone wrong for Ronda Rousey, failure to evolve?

JIMMY: Its a failure to overcome adversity in my opinion. She blazed her way through most opponents so quickly that she never really had to dig deep to win. Its not a coincidence that the first time she really lost a round she never recovered and has yet to right the ship.

MMAUK: What is Conor’s biggest strength and weakness?

JIMMY: They are the same: his ambition. He has talked and fought his way to the top of the sport based on his unwavering belief in himself. The problem is that belief has also made him look off into the horizon rather than focusing on his immediate tasks in MMA. He is obsessed with a Floyd Mayweather fight when he has never defended a title in the UFC. Now that he’s upset the UFC brass, we will see how his career unfolds.

(Interview was prior to the Mayweather fight) 

Quick Fire Questions:

Favourite Fight: Chandler/Alvarez 1 in MMA. Leonard/Hearns 1 in boxing.

Favourite Film: The Usual Suspects

Favourite Book: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Thing that irritates you the most: Hypocrisy

Jimmy, thanks for your time, really good answers to my questions


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