Who is Anthony Smith, the man who challenges Jon Jones at UFC 235?

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This is one of the most common questions before the UFC 235.

"Who is Anthony Smith, and does he have a chance?"

  • For the first time at UFC 235, Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley will compete on the same night for the UFC. Fighting together is not new to the couple who, more than a decade ago, turned the Missouri wrestling program into a powerhouse.

  • The UFC 235 takes place Saturday in Las Vegas, à la carte, with preliminary sessions on ESPN. There are two fights for the title: Jon Jones, lightweight defenseman, versus Anthony Smith and Tyron Woodley against middleweight challenger Kamaru Usman.

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    Smith (31-13) will face the most dominant fighter in UFC history this weekend, when he will face Jon Jones (23-1) for the light heavyweight championship at Las Vegas. Bettors have installed Jones as a top betting favorite, with odds as lopsided as 12-1 on some sports bets.

    Smith, who lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and fights in Denver, has put more than a decade of work to achieve this goal – but in some ways he's also born out of nowhere. The former middleweight is barely one year old from his last defeat and has competed in the 205-pound division only for the past nine months.

    So, who is this lightweight heavyweight title challenger previously unpublished? And does he really have a chance against one of the greatest fighters of all time? We looked for this answer by addressing directly to the source – family, friends, the fighting team and others who have lived the journey with Anthony Smith, who think the challenger will give Jones everything he can handle Saturday night in Las Vegas. .

    Dixie Tonacchio, Smith's mother

    I separated from Anthony's father at the age of 4 and he thought it was up to him to take care of me and his sister. His father had problems with alcohol and drugs and I had to get him out. Anthony was the man of the house and he took this to heart. When we were all three alone, he always said, "All is well, Mom, everything is fine, Mom, I'll take care of you."

    My parents moved in with us so that I could continue to work and Anthony had a very strong relationship with my father. My dad was out of date and taught him what he thought a man should be. Anthony was fine until the death of my father. He was diagnosed with throat cancer and died six weeks later. This gave us very little time to agree that it would not be with us anymore.

    Anthony was 16 years old and he had to help me take care of my dad so that he could die at home. My dad was tall and I could not handle it alone. Anthony should help me take care of him physically, and I had not realized at the time how devastating he was for him. He was just a young man, losing his grandfather, and it was a horrible time.

    After the death of his grandfather, there was a very dark period. I'm worried for him. I did not know what was going on with him and we were all dealing with the loss.

    MP Brian Briley, Otee County Sheriff's Office (Nebraska)

    Anthony was in his teens every time we met. He had a small problem with alcohol when he was young. He drank a lot and he did it often. I think Anthony holds the record for the highest number of PIMs [minor in possession] charges in Otoe County. He is one of the few that I have ever known to serve a prison sentence for this.

    What I am going to say about Anthony, is that he has always been the owner of what he did during my interactions with him. He bore the consequences. From time to time, he was involved in physical altercations, which I think was very much about alcohol. And it happened that the local Nebraska City police tell me that he escaped, but I did not have these problems with him.

    As Smith turned his life after his first child, his professional career took a step forward with a victory of Ben Lagman on a Strikeforce card in July 2011. Josh Hedges / Forza LLC / Getty Images

    Ryan Thompson, longtime friend

    There was a lot of wild weather at the time. He went through a lot of difficult times. There were many moments of total drunkenness that were not cool to see.

    He was also very active in his fighting career at that time. About 20 years old. He drank until he had to lose weight. He was reckless. He was doing well though and was beating people, no one thought that he was going to beat. My biggest concern was his death, you know? There was a lot of drunk driving. In 2009, he crashed into his car and nearly died.

    Briley

    He had just drunk one night and left the road in a culvert ditch. I answered it and I was really worried that he was injured. When I arrived, he was already outside the vehicle and we asked for medical attention.

    Tonacchio

    They called and said that Anthony was in the hospital and that he might not get there. The hospital is only a few blocks from our house and when I arrived, they could not hold him back because he did not know where he was going found and screamed. He was on the run to Omaha and we had to go to Omaha hoping your child would still be alive once he arrived there.

    Mikhala Newman, Smith's fiancée and mother of their three daughters, Ariah, Avayla and Adley

    That part of his life happened just before our meeting and he calmed down a lot. We had our daughter in 2011, the first year we met, and he will tell you again and again that Ariah saved his life and I believe him 100%. From birth, a [switch flipped] and he was like, "I'm a father now, I have to be responsible and understand things."

    After the UFC bought Strikeforce, Smith took a shot at Antonio Braga Neto in Brazil in June 2013 and was hired in the first round. He would not have another shot at the UFC for almost three years. Josh Hedges / Zuffa LLC / Getty Images

    Scott Morton, former coach of Smith in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

    Anthony is the incarnation of a man who does not resign. When he was in Strikeforce [in 2013]he had 25 professional fights and he suffered a huge blow in a defeat to Roger Gracie. And the reason is that it's not because Roger Gracie was not great, but that fight, Anthony thought long-term, because the UFC had just bought Strikeforce and he did not know not if he was going to be part of the fighters. who moved.

    He lost that fight, but the UFC nonetheless gave him a fight on short notice in Fortaleza, Brazil. He goes there, his opponent takes him in a leglock, and when we came back from this trip, it was somehow a "hey, at all at the time" of the day. UFC. It was difficult for him. He did not really know where he was going to go or how he was going to get out of it.

    But after that, he made some changes and from 2014 to 2016, he had a series of seven wins in which he finished six times. It was hard. When we finally received the reminder to go to the UFC, the process lasted two and a half years. And we had to basically build from the bottom, just to come back.

    Pinkie Skinner, owner of a glass manufacturing company at Smith, worked in 2016 before joining the UFC.

    I had hired Anthony to work for me and one day, one of the guys came up and said, "Hey, are you going to fight on Friday?" And I was like, "Uh, no?" Then another guy came in and asked, "Are you going to fight?" And I said, "What are you crazy about, are you fighting in the "Where was the problem?" And he said, "No, Anthony is fighting."

    I called Anthony to tell him, "OK, what's going on?" And he said that he was arguing and that it would be nice if I went there. I did not know much about MMA. We went down to Omaha and it was packed. I said, "OK, it's pretty cool." The show arrives until the last fight, and the music begins, the lights go on, and here is Anthony in silk dress. He tore up this dress and I thought to myself, "What is this mess?" How did I not know that he did that?

    He won and that's when he returned his cap saying, "Call me, Dana." And not knowing much about it, I said, "Is he trying to take someone?" I thought he was talking to a girl. Well, it was Dana White. And after that, Dana called him and it was not a week later, he told me he could not work because he was going to train in Ireland. Then he could not work because he was going to South America. And at that time, the writing was on the wall that he was leaving the glass company.

    After a long series of wins in the UFC, Smith had a disastrous weight reduction before his fight against Thiago Santos and was finally defeated through the second round TKO in February 2018. Jason Silva / USA TODAY Sports

    Jim Walter, agent

    I met Anthony through his head coach, Mark Montoya, in 2017. He was then fighting at middleweight. Anthony and I have always had an agreement since we started working together – because the average weight was a bit risky. His cut weight was brutal every time. I am talking about 10 hour weight reductions. They were awful. But he was showing up and beating guys, so we always said, we're going to go up the 185-pound thing until the wheels are released.

    When Anthony fought Thiago Santos in Brazil [in February 2018]it was the worst weight reduction I was part of. We reduced the weight for 14 hours. He leaves completely emptied, in a foreign country, and is kicked back. And he still fought until death. It's just who Anthony is. He is constantly fighting.

    It ended up being the best thing that could happen to us, because we went to 205 pounds. And I think the work done by Anthony, Mark and myself since then to get this opportunity, no one can deny it.

    Zach Bjornsen, Smith's neighbor in Omaha

    "Lionheart" sums it up perfectly. He grinds. Whatever the result, he will take it and get better. I think on Twitter, his tweet pinned is still his last defeat against Thiago, who says, "I just started." It's one thing I can understand as an educator, that is, that Anthony learns all his life.

    When he's at camp, he reluctantly travels to Denver to train, then comes back every weekend here, no matter what, whatever he wants to do, he's back for his family. This is probably the most impressive thing in my eyes: even during the most exciting year of his career, he always places the family above all that.

    As a new person at this UFC affair, I even knew who Jon Jones was before meeting Anthony. This is a great opportunity, and if I thought about the fight, I would be nervous. But as soon as you talk to Anthony, you're no longer nervous. He knows what will happen in this fight.

    Smith earned three straight wins, a pair of "night performance" bonuses and eventually won a shot against Jon Jones and the UFC light heavyweight championship. Photo Swing Update / John Locher

    Thompson

    It sounds strange, but Anthony does not take things seriously. Obviously, he takes the fight seriously and takes Jon seriously, but this whole process does not hold him in mind. He does not linger: "Can I do that, can I do that, can I beat Jon Jones?" He knows that he will go to Las Vegas to beat Jon Jones and now he just wants to have fun doing it.

    Walter

    Anthony Smith will be the guy who will beat Jon Jones because of his sacrifice and perspective, his cage and his experience of life. He has more finishes than Jon Jones does have fights. He fought tooth and nail for all he's got. Only on his heart, he can defeat anyone, including Jon Jones.

    Briley

    Recently, we went to the deer hunt and sat in the van. He looked at me and said, "Have you ever thought, during the day, that we would one day sit together?" And I said, "No, I really would never have seen that, but I'm glad we are." Ten years ago, I would have thought that Anthony would continue in this way, that he would have lost his driver's license or would have ended up in prison, to be honest.

    Anthony is an outsider and he has nothing to lose here. In law enforcement, whenever you are dealing with someone who has nothing to lose, they are very dangerous. I think Anthony is that guy. He is the dangerous of the two in this fight.

    New man

    Anthony always said that he was going to be world champion. Literally since the first day, it was his only goal. That's all he's done. And I have believed and supported it since the first day.

    Tonacchio

    I've always known that my son would excel in everything he wanted to do because he never gave up. If he wants it, he will get it or he will die trying. He does not stop.