Louis Smolka: Bouncing Back
It has often been said that a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter and Hawaiian Flyweight contender Louis Smolka (11-4) will be hoping that’s the case on December 30th as he hopes to halt a 3-fight skid when he faces Matheus Nicolau (12-1-1) at UFC219 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Smolka went 5-1 through his first 6 fights in the UFC and following his recent dip in form, it appears some have been quick to forget about the talent possessed by ‘Da Last Samurai’. When Louis took the time to speak to us at SpitballingPod earlier in the month, I asked him what he put his losing streak down to, and after a moment of consideration, he responded with refreshing honesty; ‘I think the biggest thing is I just got lazy, man. I’m a lazy guy, it takes a lot to get me motivated – I just don’t like getting out of bed in the morning. I think a lot of it has to do with motivation, dropping the ball, feeling like I had it in the bag already. It’s my fault, I lost focus’.
Of course motivation wasn’t the only reason for defeat, several other factors came into play and it seems the Hawaiian has taken steps to prevent the same mistakes this time around. ‘I feel like training is going pretty well, we’ve started camp a little earlier – I’m trying to get a little lighter because we’ve had some issues weight cutting. I’m trying to get on my diet too now and I’m trying to drink a little bit less.’ before continuing to say ‘I’m actually really looking forward to this fight, I’m pretty excited. I feel like this is a shot at redeeming myself. I’m just trying to make sure I get sick again, that’s one of my biggest things honestly, I just don’t wanna get sick during my weight cut.’.
It’s not as if Smolka has been set back by no-hopers, these losses include what was then a shock defeat to Brandon Moreno (who then went on to be on the brink of a title shot, before falling to Sergio Pettis), Ray Borg who weighed in almost 5lbs overweight while Smolka had been battling sickness and most recently a ‘Fight of the Night’ performance against Tim Elliott who was hot off the back of giving consensus GOAT pick Demetrious Johnson his toughest fight to date.
When asked how much he knew about Nicolau, Louis described him as a ‘Taijitsu fighter’ (a Japanese blanket term for any combat skill, technique or system of martial art using body movements that are described as an empty-hand combat skill or system) and likened him to the style of Edson Barboza.
A simple look at the record of Nicolau will inform you that he hasn’t fought since July 2016, when he defeated John Moraga via a split decision. The Brazilian’s absence had been enforced by USADA due to a doping violation back in October of the same year. Performance Enhancing Drugs (more commonly known as PEDs) are often a touchy subject to delve into, and I wondered what the mindset would be – ‘Bro, everybody’s on roids’ Smolka quipped, in what was either a fun moment of homage to potential Welterweight contender Nate Diaz, or a bleak look behind the curtain, which we all hope isn’t the case.
As much as cutting weight can never be fun, one would expect that this cut will be more painful than others; Training over Christmas has to be a kick in the teeth for all fighters competing in this period, but the Hawaiian unfortunately admits that it’s just one of the ‘perks’ of the job – ‘It kinda sucks. I mean my daughter’s birthday is on the 23rd, so that’s kind of brutal. I feel like no matter what in this business, if you take a fight then you’re gonna miss a holiday, that’s just how it happens. That’s just the nature of our sport’. And while you’re enjoying your sumptuous Christmas meals, spare a thought for the flyweight contender as he explains ‘While everyone else is having a good time, you get to enjoy your carrots, your water, and your celery’. Lovely.
While most in Louis’ shoes would understandably feel pressure heading into this next bout, he explains how that isn’t the case for him. ‘Honestly, I don’t really feel too much pressure. I come in to try and have fun with it, we just got a new gym and we have a whole bunch of resources now that we didn’t have before, so that’s super cool for me. We have our own gym that’s pretty close to my house and I get to see my daughter a lot more, I’m just trying to have fun with it’ he explained.
Having won fight night bonuses in a third of his bouts within the UFC, I wondered if this was something that played on the mind of ‘Da Last Samurai’ as he prepared to enter the octagon – ‘Oh definitely’ he assured me, continuing to say ‘I remember when I was first getting into MMA and watching Dana on the TUF shows, and he’d always say like ‘I wanna see fucking exciting fights, I wanna see you guys go out there like you’re trying to kill each other!’ and so for me I’m like ‘you got it boss!’ and I always go out to try and entertain the fans. I remember back in high school, you know how kids would get into fights and there’s the kids who are scared and so act like they’re gonna fight but just end up pushing each other, and then there’s the fights where guys just see each other and on sight they start throwing? Those are the ones that you wanna watch, and I’ve always wanted to be one of those guys that people just wanna watch fight’.
When Max Holloway won the Featherweight Belt earlier this year, we saw the rapturous crowds that greeted him when he returned home to Hawaii. After speaking with Louis, it seems that MMA really is as big as it seemed in those images; ‘It’s huge in Hawaii and it’s been huge for years. There’s a long history of fighting here – we had BJ Penn (obviously) and we had ‘Rumble on the Rock’ where like Anderson Silva, Yushin Okami, Rich Franklin, Robbie Lawler etc. They’ve all fought out here. All the OG’s of fighting have fought in Hawaii. It’s kind of a big deal, it’s pretty cool, every now and then someone will recognise you – I’m like a C List celebrity!’
As for why Louis fights, it seems the roots have been there for almost as long as he can remember. ‘Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a pro wrestler in the WWE because I thought it was real, and that was the closest thing to fighting for a living that I could come up with; but then I found out it was fake and I couldn’t have been more crushed. A couple of years later the UFC started getting big and I decided ‘this is what I’m doing now, this is awesome’ – it was like God had answered my prayers’.
After the tough start to his career that earned him the Samurai nickname, you’d be foolish to write the Hawaiian off too soon, and he’ll be looking to prove again why he’s one of the top contenders in this division come December 30th.