Tony Reid – Fans saw you on SPIKE TV as the color commentator for Bellator MMA and more recently on the FOX Networks working for the UFC but many may not know that you had a successful career inside the cage, with a record of 6-1. What are some of the fondest memories of your time spent in the cage as a competitor?
Jimmy Smith – “I loved to compete but really I loved training and being around the guys and the camaraderie of getting ready for a fight. Most of my fights were actually pretty quick. I remember I went up north to Oakland and fought a guy in his hometown, everybody was screaming and cheering for him and I submitted him in 28 seconds. It was so quick that nobody really knew what happened. Suddenly the fight was over, I stood up and raised my hand and it was dead silent. Emmanuel Newton fought on that same card. He was fighting later, I was the co-main event or something and Emmanuel fought after me and he was so pissed after his fight he came up to me later and said ‘Dude, I didn’t even warm up! I heard Jimmy Smith. Fuck I freaked out!’ he was really pissed at me but it was pretty funny.”
TR – You took your first fight on two days’ notice, correct?
JS – “I got a call on Friday from my coach at the time, Fabiano Iha, he was the Jiu Jitsu coach at Team Punishment and he asked me what I was doing that Sunday. I said nothing and he asked if I wanted to fight. I said sure I’ll try it. I got out there and it was a thing called neutral grounds which is an old thing they used to do in San Pedro. They would line you up against a wall and they would say ‘You are about the same size as this other guy. You two will fight.’ They didn’t weigh in, they didn’t do anything. I got in the cage, I knew I hadn’t trained for this so I thought I had one good round in me. I submitted the dude in 30 seconds. It was really good. That’s how I got into fighting.”
TR – Being a former competitor I’m sure you get asked about competing now. How impossibly tough of a juggling act would it be to keep up with your commentating obligations and try to get into competition/competitive shape?
JS – “Totally impossible. I’m not getting any younger. So many things have changed over the years. Guys my size could get away with fighting at welterweight. You can’t do that now. I’m a big 155er. One thing that has really changed is weight cutting. It used to be the domain of wrestlers but now it has filtered down to everybody. Fighters are so much bigger now than they were when I was fighting. A black belt is almost a pre requisite. When I was fighting if you had some Jiu Jitsu you were probably a step ahead of the guy you were fighting. It was just a different game back then. I know what it takes to be successful in MMA and that’s why I don’t do it. MMA is a horrible hobby. You need an 8 week camp. You need to completely control your diet, your training, to be successful and be a champion then don’t do it. I can’t commit that kind of time anymore. I do a hard night of jiu jitsu and I can’t get out of bed the next day.”
TR – You are one of the best in the business at what you do. How do you not talk over the heads of newbies yet not insult the intelligence of the hardcore fans?
JS – “That is the balancing act completely. Talking about the sport in the terms that someone who has never seen it can understand but not insulting the people that already have a background in it. That is one of the hardest things especially when it comes to Jiu Jitsu. Color commentary in MMA is more difficult and more specialized than in other sports. Jiu Jitsu is complicated and most people don’t do it. If you watch boxing you understand getting punched in the head. Most people can see it and understand it. You don’t have to over-explain it. You get what you are seeing. If you have never done Jiu Jitsu and you watch someone who is passing half guard it doesn’t make any sense to you. You have to start from zero. I try to simplify it enough for the viewer that may not understand it but no to the point of belaboring it to a point where a viewer who knows the sport is getting bored.”
TR – Who would win a fight if the real Jimmy Smith had to throw down with the fictional Jimmy Smith (Eminem’s character in 8 Mile)?
JS – “Oh, done dude! As long as it wasn’t a rap battle I would take that hands down, completely.”