Bellator’s Jimmy Smith discusses his career, Bjorn Rebney relationship and Bellator 138

Jimmy Smith has established himself as one of the best MMA commentators in the sport and already has wealth of accomplishments in his career so far. Along with amassing a professional MMA record of 5-1, Smith’s also hosted “Fight Quest” on the Discovery Channel and is currently doing commentary for Bellator MMA and PBC boxing. Smith spoke to MMAOddsBreaker on Episode 109 of “The Parting Shot Podcast” and discussed a variety of topics.   Getting involved MMA  “MMA didn’t exist when I was growing up, I got into it [in] my early twenties. I was a wrestler in a high school and starting doing jiu-jitsu over at UCLA. When I finished up [at UCLA], I was driving through Huntington Beach, and I saw a sign that said ‘jiu-jitsu’ and I pulled over and wanted to sign up. It turned out to be what would eventually become Team Punishment, it was E-Ha jiu-jitsu at the time. That’s how I got started.” jimmysmithmma Transitioning from professional MMA fighter to Television Host  “I didn’t really decide to [leave the sport]. I got the offer to do Fight Quest at the Discovery Channel right after a beat Jason Chambers. I had been on the road since then. People don’t understand back then, I was fighting local shows. When I fought against Jason, I was the co-main event I got I think $1000 bucks, it was hard to make a living back then. When this opportunity came to do Fight Quest and you know have a career on TV, I took it. But I didn’t really think I’m going to step away and retire. I didn’t really think about it that way. It ended up being a career and TV and I didn’t expect that.”   jimmysmithmma   Doing commentary for M1 Global  “I literally got an email out of the blue from Jerry Millen who used to be the VP over at PRIDE. He was working with these guys at M1. It said ‘Hey I like your show, are you free to do commentary next week in Amsterdam?’ and I went ‘yeah sure I can do that’. I literally got on plane, met everybody, sat down at the booth and we sat there and called fights. That was my introduction to the game, had to just learn it on the job. It was a blast; the way it worked is they worked with a lot of local promotions. So we’d go around to a different promoter in the country, depending on where we were and they’d handle everything.  You didn’t know what was going on from show to show because it wasn’t run by one central TV production. It was all dependent on what promotion they were working with in that country. You’d get off the plane and hopefully somebody was there, maybe somebody wasn’t. It was crazy, it was like the Wild West, but it was fun, we had a great time doing it.”   Landing the commentary job at Bellator MMA “A bunch of production people went from M1 to Bellator. So M1 was on its last leg in terms of the TV deal they had with FOX Sports. A lot of those people had already transitioned over to Bellator. When they needed a commentator, a lot of people who had gone from M1 to Bellator recommended me. So Bjorn Rebney called me and we did kind of a phone interview. That was it, I got the job in a couple days but it people who I worked with before at M1 that putting in a good word for me at Bellator.”   Almost leaving Bellator in 2011 due to contract issues  “It was a done deal, I was out. I mean that was it, I mean the show was going to be in a week or something. And I was out, I was completely out. When people ask how close I was to leaving, I was gone as far as I was concerned. Yeah they were going to bring in Neil Grove to replace me and it was just a classic Bjorn Rebney move. I thought I was done, finished. I think maybe not even a week before the first show, they came back and we did the deal. In my mind, I was gone, it was over. They wanted to sign an extension with me is the way it worked. I had a great first year a lot of positive feedback. They sent me a contract that basically cut my pay. I said, no why would I sign an extension for less? That doesn’t make any sense. That was literally the last thing that I sent them. Then I never heard anything back and that was it. It wasn’t even a back and forth negotiation, it was ‘fine screw that guy, who needs him’ Then a few days before the first show, realizing they completely screwed the pooch and came back to me. That was very typical of that flying off the handle approach that he had to things.”   Potentially working for the UFC in 2011 “At that point in 2011, no. I wasn’t really on [the UFC’s] radar, I hadn’t done anything. I don’t know if UFC was aware of me at the time, the UFC [also] hadn’t moved into their expansion era. So it was pretty much Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg doing all the shows. A few years ago, when there was a dispute about when my contract with Bellator ended, there was talk about if it ends now [the UFC] would have been happy to have [me].  Bellator obviously said no your contract doesn’t end here. But the UFC was in the mix of that conversation is the best way I could put it. That was after the 2011 ordeal. If they had come to me 2011 I would have been gone. With the way Bjorn handled the situation, I would have been like ‘f-you I’m out of here’ but I wasn’t really on the UFC’s radar at that time.”   Relationship with former Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney “Our relationship was pretty good after [the contract depute]. Because it was I’m not going to take this, if you push me, I’m going to push back hard. That’s me, I don’t care, and I will be a fricken forest ranger if I get shit on. I don’t like being bullied, pushed around [or] somebody trying to intimidate me.  Once I made that stand that defined the rest of my time with Bjorn at Bellator. I don’t allow people to treat me that way. After that he didn’t deal with me that much.  Because I had established I won’t be pushed around, once you do that, they back off. I didn’t really have to deal with him that much. I’ve heard horror stories from everybody. That established things early on in our professional relationship.     Working with Scott Coker compared to Bjorn Rebney “Night and day in terms of my ability to work. Bjorn pretty much left me alone, like I pretty much did my job and that was it. He micromanaged a lot of things, but he didn’t micromanage my commentary. Not much has changed in that regard. Scott’s attitude [is if] you keep doing a great job, he’ll take care of his end. He looks at the video packages and says stuff like ‘Hey great stuff, wonderful, go with it’ Bjorn would come back with three pages of notes; you’d send him the same clip and not change anything. He’d go ‘Great, wonderful’ it was like a cartoon or something. When we would do like standup shows the Top 10 knockouts or something. They would send me the script the night before; I would never ever read it. Because I would get there and Bjorn would show up and change everything. So I never read anything because I knew he would change everything. [Scott] cares about fighter’s contracts, he cares about big ticket promotion stuff, fighter relationships, everything else do your job and we’ll all be happy. His attitude is much more hands off. It’s a much more relaxed environment to say the least.”   Bellator headlining events with novelty match-ups instead of title fights  “I see the value in it. As kind of a hard-core fight geek myself, I prefer the title fights headlining, I like the significance of it. Their attitude, a Kimbo vs. Shamrock fight – which might be a great fight, but doesn’t have the Top 10 relevance of a Patricio “Pitbull” Freire versus Daniel Weichel for example – brings in the casual fans who will see Pitbull and Weichel and [say] this is a great promotion. It brings in casual fans with Stephen Bonner vs. Tito Ortiz and show them the Bellator hardcore fighters. I completely get that strategy. ”   Bellator 138: Ken Shamrock vs. Kimbo Slice  “This is going to be decided in the first minute of the first round. These guys don’t have a deep well of skills; it’s not going to be a chess match. One guy likes throwing huge bombs and smashing dudes faces. The other one likes takedowns and leg locks. Whoever gets their game going early on in the fight is going win. I think this is going to decide brutally, this is not going to be a five round war of attrition. It’s going to be a quick war of who gets position and who uses it.”   Ken Shamrock’s physique and PED rumors  “He looks like a frickin giant. I cannot believe, he’s 51, it’s f**king insane! That’s the thing there is no hard and fast rule for who’s doping. Certain guys you can tell by looking at them. I’ve known guys that didn’t dope that were massive. It’s a secret arms rate and the problem it’s a shadow that’s cast over everybody. Anderson Silva didn’t look like he was doping, he looked lean and mean. There is no ‘just look at the guy’ Shelmenko had a gut and got popped with TRT to the point of 55 to 1 was his ratio. Nobody would look at him [as doping] That argument goes to the waste side by me.  You can’t look at the physique all the time and sell it. shamrock51     Favourite Bellator 138 fight “Daniel Weichel vs. Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire. The reason is because 145 pounds has been a revolving door a little bit.  The last few champions it’s been Pat Curran, Daneil Straus and Pitbull. They’ve all kind of had wins against one another, it’s kind of been mixed and matched. Flip a coin and one of those guys is champion. Pitbull is the only one [who has] established himself as the class of that class. Where he’s kind of rising above everyone else at 145 pounds, which I think might be our deepest division. I want to see if he can have outstanding performance against Daniel Weichel, who is tough as nails, well rounded, technical, doesn’t have any gaps in his game. I want to see if Pitbull is motivated not to not just win, but also just show [he’s] ahead of the rest of the division and that’s why [he’s] the champion.”   Bellator 138: Michael Chandler vs. Derek Campos “[Chandler] needs a win, you lose three in a row you need a win.  The only way to get over a loss is to bury it with wins. If he goes in there thinking he has to dominate, he needs to own this guy, that’s extra weight he doesn’t need on his shoulders right now. The last thing I would do if I were his coaches, would talk about winning impressively and finishing guys. Get that “w” get back on track, look impressive after a couple of wins. That’s what I would tell him.”   Phil Davis’ first opponent in Bellator “I don’t see [Davis] getting a title shot right off against Liam McGeary, but let’s say Emanuel Newton, Linton Vassell, King Mo, Tito Ortiz [they’re] in the mix. All those are interesting, tough fights for him. Taking on a guy like Phil Davis – who comes in with so much fan recognition and so much heat as a Top 5 guy – the question is, do you throw him a softball? Get him adjusted to Bellator, couple of fights, shake off some ring rust. Or do you give him King Mo right out of the gate? That’s the question and I don’t know how Scott Coker is going to answer it.”   Tito Ortiz vs. Liam McGeary next?  “It’s the fight most people are talking about when I look at that division. Stylistically it’s a tough match for both guys, because Liam McGeary is a monster but tends to accept the takedown. Emanual Newton took him down pretty easily. Tito is hell to submit and his ground and pound is vicious. That’s not a guy you just want to give the double leg to and get on top of you. But Liam he throws leather and he throws hard. Tito doesn’t want to take those punches. You have to ask yourself as a promoter what happens if Liam McGeary wins, what happens if Tito Oritz wins? Are you comfortable with both of those scenarios working out? It would be a fan friendly kind of fight, a lot people would say did Tito really earn that shot? It’s a help and a hinder [making that fight].”   Next Bellator middleweight title challenger “[First off] I thought Kendall Grove was in a great position for the upset and he got creamed, Halsey just destroyed him. Tamdan McCRory is the name that’s coming out from everybody’s list, that dude is a monster. McCRory is obviously the biggest name out there. Shlemenko is obviously out with the suspension, Melvin Mahoef coming off the loss to Shelmenko, there aren’t a ton of options at 185 pounds. I think McCRory is the only one out there that we can realistically sell as somebody that can take the title.”   Mike Richman’s 2 year PED suspension “That is forever, that’s your prime. It sucks in a way; it’s also hey look we got to put the hammer down at some point. Guys have to know you cannot do this, you can’t get away with it, and it will tarnish your entire legacy. Two years is a long time to be away from fighting, you’ll got to get a day job in that time, you have to start thinking about other things. It might be the last time we see Mike Richman, that’s what guys have to understand if they have to dope, they’re going to come down on you with both feet.”   New drug testing policy  “What else works? That’s really the question. When it was six months, guys were like ‘Screw it, I only fight six months anyways’ With two years you really have to think about, is this worth jeopardizing my entire career? It’s harsh and I hate to see it happen. But the previous penalties didn’t work. You have guys who have stained their entire careers by doping. Maybe these penalties will finally clean up the sport.”   Where MMA is headed in next five years  “We’re in a strange period right now with PED’s, with the Reebok deal. Is fighting like boxing? Where promotions put fighters together, but it’s a fighter driven sport, where it’s about the athlete or is it like the NFL that’s brand driven? It’s unionized, it has a uniform policy.  The Reebok deal, that’s the kind of thing that you’d see in stick or ball sport. That’s never applied in combat sports, its which mold are we going to go to?”   Athletes and sponsors turning away from MMA  “There’s a lot of unhappiness right now. This is a brutal ass sport, you can ruin your health, you destroy your body, do all these things. The brass ring at the end is hopefully I can make enough money that I can retire or I can set myself up for the future. The more limits there are on that, the harder it is to motivate guys to turn to the sport. The other thing that nobody is talking about, a lot of brands are going to get out of the sport. There is a whole eco system of sponsors that are going to [get out] of here. On that end too, driving interest away from the sport it’s a huge part of it.”   Fighters going to Bellator because of UFC sponsorship issues   “Completely, when Bellator wants to sign somebody it’s an easy pitch. Guys are talking about losing a lot of money. Gilbert Melendez, I saw an interview with him about the Eddie Alvarez fight, he named about a dozen sponsors that’s he’s losing. That means a competing promotion can offer less money and if you can make up the difference in sponsors, it’s worth moving. That is an incredible advantage when it comes to negotiating.”   Friendship with Joe Rogan  “Joe is really supportive of me by the way. He’s a great dude seriously. People don’t understand, the production people know one and another. The director of Bellator is friendly with the UFC, it’s a small world. The idea that I see Kenny Florian and would have some kind of beef and we would have a breakdance fight or some shit, is ridiculous.  Anytime I run into those any of guys, we are just talking shop and we’re cool.  People have this idea that we would have a kind of rivalry or competition – we’re all peers as far as I’m concerned.” rogansmith Fighting Joe Rogan “We’d have to get paid a lot of money, that’s exactly what would happen. I have never had the opportunity to train with Joe; we are from totally different backgrounds. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him and his ability. If we did fight, we’d get paid a lot that’s what I’m going to say about.”   You can follow Jimmy on Twitter @JimmySmithMMA. You can listen to the full audio version of this interview on below (21 mins in)

Written by James Lynch

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