The 29-year-old Brit has drawn none other than Rodtang Jitmuangnon in the opening round of the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix, which kicks off at ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot this Friday, 20 May, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Having to face the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion in your first bout on ONE’s global stage would be an intimidating task for most athletes, but Smith faced much bigger challenges in the earlier stages of his life – and that has helped him put occasions like this into perspective.
“My childhood was tough in stages. My mom wasn’t great, a drug addict who would come and go. My dad always did his best, and he was always a good dad. Sometimes my dad would go out for work and my mom would wait for him to go and then leave me in with my little brother, and no one would know until my dad came in from work asking where my mom was. This is when I would have been about seven or eight years old, and my little brother [was] two or three,” he recalls.
The young fighter found solace in Muay Thai, and he began to leave his troubled past behind to put all his energy into improving as an athlete. As he progressed in the sport, Smith soon found that the possibilities were endless, and with the support of those around him, he began to think of making it his life’s focus.
“So my girlfriend was like, ‘Listen, I think you could be really good at this, why don’t you knuckle down, stop the [trouble] you’re [making], and focus on it. Let’s see how far we can go,’” he said.
“I didn’t have it in my head that it could be a career, [but] it just spiraled when I started to take it a bit more seriously. I got decent pretty quick and one thing led to another, [and] next thing I’m fighting the top boys here.”
The 29-year-old rising star has put an impressive 14-5-1 Muay Thai and kickboxing record together already, and he’ll undoubtedly get his chance to face the top fighters on the ONE roster.
Should he make it past Rodtang, a host of names await him in the Grand Prix, including #3-ranked flyweight kickboxer Walter Gonclaves and #1-ranked flyweight Muay Thai fighter Jonathan “The General” Haggerty. And if he wins the illustrious tournament outright, he'll take its coveted silver belt and also earn a chance to face “The Iron Man” once again – but for his ONE gold.
Smith is well-aware of his upcoming opponent’s skills. He credits Rodtang for what he has done in his career, but he refuses to be intimidated by his reputation. Instead, he plans to use his debut to put a stamp on the division.
“Rodtang is one of the most feared fighters on the planet for a reason. He’s relentless, and he overwhelms people with the constant pressure,” he said.
"I respect him a lot, but the difference I think I will have compared to some of the other guys he’s fought is I think some of them are already beat before they get in there. The name and the occasion has already beat them. I’m not. I’m going in there to win and show everyone who I am and make a statement.”
Watch ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot live on Disney+ Hotstar, beginning with the lead card at 2 p.m. India Standard Time (IST) on Friday, 20 May. The main card broadcasts live on Disney+ Hotstar at 6 p.m. IST.