Jimmy Smith details his 'big gamble'
Jimmy Smith was Bellator's lead color commentator for eight years. He couldn't come to agreeable terms, but the UFC was interested. However, the UFC was signing a deal with ESPN, so all contracts were one year only. Smith took the one year contract, and then the UFC determined to go with Joe Rogan and current or former fighters only. Smith is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and a retired fighter, but never fought in the UFC, so he is out of a job.
During a recent appearance on The MMA Hour, Smith detailed the long, strange trip, starting at the end when he was told why he wasn't being re-hired.
“Very simply it was, you’re great, fantastic, we love everything you did,” said Smith, as transcribed by Dave Doyle for MMA Fighting. “We’re going with UFC fighters for 2019, so, that’s it. I don’t think I’m leaving out any syllables. It was literally that was the conversation, it was, we love everything you did, fewer shows, we’re going with UFC fighters for those shows. That was it.”
“What does it also do for them contractually? Hey, when you’re done you’ll get air time. What is the message that sends to people who are fighting? if you’re on the team, you will get air time. If you play ball, you will get air time. You might get a desk job. These guys don’t have a parachute. They don’t have anything at the end. So another incentive is you might be on commentary team. So even beyond what the fans think and all these things, it’s also from their point of view, everything is in-house. People might be at the career, might need a little incentive, what do you do? Well, hey, you might be able to go on the FOX desk, you might do this, might do that, might have something when it’s all over.”
“My first inkling was Nov. 3. Was my first big light bulb, I was supposed to do Cormier-Lewis, it was supposed to be me, Anik, and Rogan. And then I got an email about ten days before and they said, ‘Yeah there have been some card changes, so we’re moving the talent around. We want you to do the Moncton, Canada show. And I go to my computer and I pull up the bout sheets and I’m like, there haven’t been any card changes something’s up, that was my first inkling something was up.”
“I took a big risk and I knew that. And what happened was, my contract with Bellator was up and they wanted to kind of renew the one that I had, it’s a long story but the UFC came to us and said ‘look, we don’t know where we’re going in 2019.’ the ESPN deal hadn’t been signed. So, their thing was, we think he’s talented, we think he’s great, we’d love to have him on the team. We can’t do more than a year deal because we don’t know where we’re going no one has anything past 2018.’
“So I called around some people that I knew in the UFC, Anik and stuff like that, and I said ‘what’s going on?’ And [they] said ‘yeah, we have no idea what’s going on past 2018, everybody is kind of in the same boat.’ And I said okay, this is kind of a risk signing a contract for just a year. But I gotta take the leap and try, I have to do what I can. I took a big gamble and I here I am.”
“Everything is open, everything is an option. I’ve been in MMA 20 years, I’ve been in broadcasts since 2006, 12 years, 13. Yeah, you keep going because this is what I got good at this is what I’ve excelled. So yeah I’m going to keep plugging away and being open to everything and see what happens."