Don’t threaten Anthony Smith with a good time.
As he was working as an analyst for ESPN on Saturday, the veteran light heavyweight contender heard his name mentioned by Nikita Krylov just after Krylov picked up an impressive win over Volkan Oezdemir on the UFC 280 preliminary card.
“I think it will be great with [Anthony] Smith,” Krylov said. “I think he’s No. 5 in the rankings. I will be really happy if the organization gives me a fight with him. If he can’t or he’s scared, I can fight with anyone, everyone.”
Smith could only react with a smile, especially after hearing Krylov suggest that there’s even the slightest chance that he might be frightened by that particular matchup.
As far as answering the challenge, Smith had no problem with the callout or accepting the offer to face Krylov in the near future.
“Scared?” Smith said. “I have a lot of respect for Nikita Krylov. I said several times before that he’s kind of the dark horse in the division. He put [Alexander Gustafsson’s] lights out fast. Like nobody gets rid of Gustafsson like that. I fought him and it took me four rounds to get him out of there. I’ve got a lot of respect for that guy.
“The answer is and always is to everybody in the division — yes. I’m totally down. Maybe March? I’m in.”
Smith is currently healing up from a broken leg he suffered in his most recent fight against Magomed Ankalaev in July. The injury occurred in the opening round, which then led to Ankalaev securing the finish just a few moments later when it was clear Smith was compromised.
Afterwards, Smith underwent surgery to repair the damage done, although he recently revealed to MMA Fighting that his recovery has been going slower than he originally hoped due to a blood clot that formed in his leg.
As a result, Smith had to go on blood thinners as his doctors awaited the clot to be cleared before allowing him to begin working towards a return to action.
“Initially before the blood clot, I was hoping to fight in January,” Smith said at the time. “It’s probably a little bit optimistic but it’s possible. But the blood clot issue really set me back. I don’t actually know when I’ll be able to do all that stuff again because it’s on its own timeline. It does its own thing.
“Your body just has to absorb it and that could take a month. It could take six months. It could be longer. I don’t know. I hope it’s sooner rather than later obviously. It’s been kind of a rough year for me to be honest with you.”
If Smith is now targeting March for a possible return date it seems like the blood clot didn’t slow him down all that much. Whether or not the UFC decides to book Smith against Krylov in 2023 remains to be seen.