History tends to repeat itself on a consistent basis. Unfortunately for Resurrection Fighting Alliance 34 headliner Benjamin Smith, that wasn’t the case when he was crowned champion of the promotion.
It is — or at least it was at one point — assumed by many in the sport that if a fighter added an RFA title to their resume, the next call that came would be for fight in the UFC. Smith never got that call when he won the strap early last year. Instead, he ended up having to defend the belt against Gilbert Smith in a fight he was very much winning until Gilbert slapped on an armbar.
“I was RFA champion in the past and that didn’t lead to that path. I don’t know why,” Smith told Combat Press.
Smith was on a nice streak in his career, showing improvements in each and every performance. Even in his title fight, though he suffered a loss, Smith felt he had improved. However, just like it can happen to anyone in this sport, he got caught by another trained professional.
The knowledge that he had put the work in and improved his game made it even that much harder to swallow the UFC failing to give him a call to fight against the top talent in the sport.
“I was extremely disappointed,” said Smith. “Since the day I started fighting, I wanted to be fighting in the UFC. I am proud and happy to fight for the RFA, which is an organization that has sent a lot of its fighters to the UFC and champions. Hopefully I get that chance.”
There’s something that might be even more infuriating for Smith as he awaits the day he gets his chance. We’ve all seen guys get a shot who don’t necessarily deserve it. These guys come in too early and usually don’t last longer than two or three fights at the top level. There are also guys coming in with barely six fights under their belt. Meanwhile, Smith feels extremely confident he is ready for the opportunity.
“Absolutely ready,” he said. “I’ve felt like I’ve been ready for that for quite some time.”
Smith is more than willing to step in and take on anyone at any given notice. In fact, he would actually prefer it if it went down that way. You can rest assured there aren’t many guys out there who share that sentiment with Smith.
“I’d love that,” said Smith. “I think that is the most ideal opportunity out there, man. If you take a short-notice fight, you step up, bring your ‘A’ game and there is less pressure to necessarily win. If I can fight at 185 [pounds] and not have to make that weight cut, I can go out there and put on an untethered performance in front of the powers that be. I think that is a great opportunity. I’d fight tonight if it was a possibility and if somebody asked me.”
Whether or not he feels ready for the next stage of his career, Smith still has to take care of the business at hand. The business, in this case, is named Bojan Velickovic. A Serbian-born fighter, Velickovic is an up-and-comer many are keeping an eye on. He is being awarded this title shot for the vacant RFA welterweight championship belt on the heels of three very impressive performances, two of which took place under the RFA banner. These are just a few reasons why some folks around the sport are buzzing about this European prospect.
“Like any other fighters, he is certainly beatable,” said Smith. “I don’t think there is one area where he is more or less beatable. I think he is more proficient with his Muay Thai than necessarily he’s a submission guy or a wrestler. His grappling game has improved over the course of his fights. Although I think my wrestling outmatched his, by far, it will be interesting to see what he can do and how much has he really improved for this fight. As far as the stand-up is concerned, like I said, I think it’s proficient and I’d love to test my game with him out there too. That’s an area where I think I’ve improved a lot.”
It seems like the RFA may have a classic match-up between two competitors on its hands. The outcome may boil down to which of the two men can implement their game plan the best on fight night. For Smith a decisive win and the chance to wrap the belt around his waist once again might be the last motivating factor to assure he does receive a call from the UFC after RFA announcer Mike Kendall makes the final announcement next Friday night.