It was announced last week that Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith would be fighting Nick Diaz on the “Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields” card on June 6th in St. Louis, Missouri. Both fighters are coming off big TKO wins from Strikeforce’s April 11th card.
Immediately following the announcement, PRO MMA (promma.info) invited Scott to be a guest on our weekly podcast THE INFO. The following interview was transcribed from Scott’s appearance on the show.
Scott talks about his recent win over Benji Radach and why he feels it was the biggest win of his career. He also breaks down his upcoming fight with Nick Diaz, how the two match up, how he feels about going into this next fight so quickly, and much more.
If you would like to listen to the audio version of this interview it is available HERE (31:10 mark).
PRO MMA: Breaking news of the day, Scott Smith has signed on to fight Nick Diaz at Strikeforce’s June 6th show in St. Lous, Missouri, at 180 pounds. Scott, thank you very much for joining us.
Smith: Good to be here, thanks for having me.
PRO MMA: Scott, first thing I gotta ask you is, what was going through your mind when you were first presented with this opportunity to fight Nick Diaz so soon after the April 11th fight?
Smith: First thing I gotta say is, you just said 180 lbs, I thought it was 179. I’m actually a little more excited now that its 180, you know that one pound actually does make a big difference.
PRO MMA: We have the media release in front of us and it does says 180 lbs.
Smith: You know what it is, it’s 179 but the athletic commission allows an extra pound. So that’s why it says 180. I’m glad that it’s 180. I’ll be glad if it’s 180 not 179, I’m a guy that doesn’t like to cut weight. But anyways, on to your questions, yeah, I was presented with the opportunity, and this all went down literally a couple days ago, i think midnight on Saturday I was asked if I would take the fight, and how can you say no? I mean Nick Diaz one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world, you know. I think you can look at my last handful of fights and see I’ve been fighting top notch fighters you know. That’s what I want to do. I’m one of those dangerous fighters that can beat anyone in the world and that’s what I want to go out there and try to prove. This is a very very exciting and golden opportunity for me.
PRO MMA: Obviously there’s been a lot of buzz following that fight. Do you still get people walking up to you on the street on a daily basis commenting on the reaction to that fight?
Smith: Yeah, absolutely. I’m not sure how many people actually watched the fight, but at first, people that knew I was going and getting ready for that fight, my friends, they saw it, but I’m starting to see in the past maybe a week after the fight; I think so many people heard how great of a fight it was that people tuned in to the replay or found it elsewhere to watch. You know the last few days even more people are noticing and talking about the fight. So I think people just heard how great of a fight it was and went and checked it out.
PRO MMA: Yeah, I think that is a really great way to describe it. That’s a fight where the momentum is going to build, as the word spreads. We were both there live. That was the only fight, well, obviously the Nick Diaz/ Shamrock fight, but the first thing out of my mouth to all my co-workers when they said, “How was the event?” You need to see the Scott Smith fight, it was amazing.
Smith: (laughs) Right on.
PRO MMA: Now, continuing. Like we said, we were looking at the calendar and we are 35 days away from June 6th. How are you feeling health-wise, are you 100 percent?
Smith: I don’t think any MMA fighter is ever 100 percent. In my last fight, I had stitches in my eye and three stitches in my lip. Obviously a lot of people are questioning that. But, yeah, we are five weeks out from the fight. I am way less beat up, way healthier then I was five weeks out from fighting Benji Radach. I had a bad knee injury, that is 100 percent. That is the biggest thing. My knee injury became 100 percent maybe ten days to two weeks before that fight. So I didn’t get to fully prepare for that Benji fight. I didn’t get to grapple and I’m doing that now, so, I’m in a much better position 35 days out now than I was for my last fight.
PRO MMA: Scott, when we saw that fight was signed, Eddie and I had the immediate reaction, how is he going to come in 35 days out, especially seeing you at the post-fight press conference. You looked like you went through a hard 3-round fight. As Eddie mentioned, that was a great stand-up fight with both of you guys going back and forth. Was there any concern for you, when you first got this fight. I mean you said, “How do you pass this up?” But I mean was there any immediate concern about any potential cuts opening up? Was there any hesitation at all, from a health standpoint?
Smith: No. There was no hesitation on my part. I know my manager, being not just my manager but a good friend, kind of a big brother type, was like, “You know, are you sure?” I even saw the reaction in my dad’s face. My dad is obviously one of my biggest fans and a huge supporter. He, you know, I kind of saw the look of uncertainty in his eyes when I told him. I understand. As fighters we have a manager for a reason. If you’re a true fighter, and I feel that I am, you’re not gonna say no to any fight. And that’s what your manager is there for, to take the hit for you. Like no, my fighter is not ready to go. I am really ready for this fight. I would rather have this fight right now than wait two months, or wait two months after June 6th. Part of the reason being I have the tendency to get out of shape after a fight. Usually, right now, two weeks after a fight I’m probably 205 pounds, close to 210, I let myself go. Well I had planned on going to Thailand to train in early June and I didn’t want to go to Thailand out of shape. I fought on Saturday, Monday I was in my gym training. Tuesday I was in San Francisco training with Gung Yow. Wednesday I was back in my gym. I mean I am training like I was fighting right after my fight, beat up, stitches and all. So I’m in great shape. Today I weighed 194 pounds. I’m never this light two weeks after. The big thing fighting a guy like Nick Diaz is, I have to be able to go 100 miles an hour for 15 minutes. And 35 days out I can tell you right now, I will be able to go 100 miles an hour for 15 minutes. I’m more concerned about being able to do that rather than being concerned about my eye getting cut open.
PRO MMA: Scott, if you were not planning on going to Thailand after the Radach fight and you did get to that 205-210 pound mark, would you not have signed the contract?
Smith: If I was heavy and beat up, absolutely. I think I wouldn’t sign the contract. I think that’s a big part of it because the problem being is, when I’ve let myself go, getting back up to 210 pounds, I’m going to have to spend the first couple weeks getting back to weight and now, not only that, I’m fighting what, five, six pounds lighter. So I’m going to have to spend a couple weeks just getting into shape and getting myself prepared to take a fight. Well now I’m three weeks out from the fight. Starting today, I wasn’t there just cutting weight and getting in shape. I was there learning and preparing for Nick Diaz.
PRO MMA: Again, at your most recent fight, after having beat Benji Radach, we saw your boys come into the cage. The emotion you had on your face, I know how important it was for you. Can you tell us a little bit about that, what that meant having your boys after you won?
Smith: You know what, when I heard the potential for them to come in there, you know, Showtime and Strikeforce were great making that happen. You know, if I win they are going to get the kids in there. My kids, that’s only the second fight they’ve been to. I cant even put it into words. Not only did I win the fight and get my kids in there, I gotta say that’s my biggest win. I’ve had a couple of big wins, but just the way the whole fight went down, where I’m at in my career, money wise, and how important that fight was for me, as far as where I go from there. I feel my last fight is my biggest win, and to do it in such dramatic fashion and have my kids there to share that with me. I mean, I was just overcome with emotion. My kids go through a lot and have seen me go through a lot. They re having to bounce around, you know, around my training, having to go to babysitters, so it was really, really neat being able to share some of that success with my kids, and you know, it all paid off the next day. Its Easter and we’re driving back from the fight. They stayed the night with me and they can’t wait to get back home and watch the fight on Tivo so they can see themselves on TV. So that was really, really rewarding for me.
PRO MMA: Outstanding. Now is this something you are looking to continue as they get older? To have them at more of your events?
Smith: No. I mean yes and no. I mean, San Jose is close enough I was able to have my family drive them up the day of the fight. My fight with Nick Diaz is in St. Louis, I’m not going to haul my kids all the way over there. Another factor is it’s their last week of school. I just can’t take them that far. I just don’t want the stress, you know, of dealing with my kids. I love the week of a fight because I can just get away. That’s why I don’t like fighting close. The week of a fight you can get away and you have every excuse in the world to turn your phone off and not respond to anybody and just completely relax. It’s vacation time. And that’s what is a little bit hard about fighting close to home. You know San Jose is just a couple of hours away from me. I stayed at home. I had my kids the week of my fight up until I left and then I had them once I got to my fight. It’s not something that I wanna continue to do. The other time I had them there, it was kind of a smaller venue and was pretty much a… not every fight is a guaranteed win, but you know, it was one of those types of fights that I better not lose this fight or I better look for another career.
PRO MMA: Who was that opponent?
Smith: That was in, um, lets see exactly… that was Jeff Morris, it was Jeff Morris. It was pretty cool because it was a Gladiator fight in downtown Sacramento and Gladiator Challenge made it the main event and it was for the Gladiator 185 belt. It’s one of those fights that I guarantee I would win 99 out of 100 times. That’s not one of those, you know, putting Jeff down at all, because Jeff’s one of those, he’s a tough guy. It was one of those fights that I was ok with my kids going to. I knew it wouldn’t be a Benji Radach war. I was kind of concerned with having my kids there with Benji because I knew we were going to have a war, but I never expected it to be quite what it was.
PRO MMA: Yeah. I didn’t know if you were going to try and work that opponent into being Tim McKenzie because I know the jabs you guys take back and forth at each other.
Smith: (Laughs) Yeah. Me and Tim, even all day today, we’ve been spending time picking on each other.
PRO MMA: Scott, as you mentioned, after the fight with Radach there was a lot of emotion when your kids were in the cage. But, Nick Diaz was the main event. Did you get a chance to watch Nick face Frank Shamrock while you were still in the Tank or did you have to watch that on Tivo?
Smith: I really got to watch that kind of while I was still getting stitched up when I watched the main event. And especially it was put in my ear Saturday night if I wanted to fight him, I actually, about one in the morning, I watched that fight about an hour later. And to be honest with you, I thought, watching it at the event, I thought that Shamrock just looked slow, old and wore out. Watching on Tivo I had a little more respect for Diaz actually. Diaz actually did fight a better fight than I thought. I thought it was all Shamrock not being there and Diaz actually looked a little bit better then I thought he originally did.
PRO MMA: Have you had a chance to watch your fight as well, from a technical aspect, to see where you did well and where you can look to possibly improve?
Smith: Yeah I did. I watched it more the day after the fight. Like I said I took my kids and watched it at my sister’s house on Tivo. Kind of the bad thing is I think I was still a little concussed at that time, so I don’t really remember too much, but I have watched it once. It’s one of those fights where it’s kind of frustrating to watch. It’s a great ending and that’s about all I want to watch. One of those things that I know exactly what I did wrong. There’s so many things that I wanted to do, like go out there and do different, that I did not do. So it almost pisses me off to watch the fight. It’s one of those fights like Patrick Cote. One of the most, it is THE most frustrating fight I’ve ever had and I have maybe seen that fight twice. I just don’t care to go watch it because I know exactly what I did and the same thing with Benji. I know Benji is already talking about he wants a rematch, which you know, I, even winning the fight, I want a rematch. Because I want to prove to people I didn’t just get lucky again. Its kind of getting to be a common thing for me that I have to prove to people that I don’t get lucky in my fights. I guess if you can come away with from a fight, fighting a guy like Benji, who is an absolute stud, and come away with a win after a terrible performance then you gotta be pretty thankful for that.
PRO MMA: Yeah, definitely. I’m one that doesn’t believe in luck. You throw a punch, you land it. There’s no fucking luck in that. But going back to Nick Diaz, obviously we know he is a Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt. I do see here in the media release that was sent out today that you’re looking to supplement your jiu-jitsu training with Ricardo Barros. Has that started yet?
Smith: Today was supposed to be the first day, he didn’t make it today, so we start tomorrow.
PRO MMA: Ok, yeah, because we do know he competed yesterday at the American Jiu-Jitsu Cup. We were also there covering that, and he did take gold in that tournament so maybe it was a recovery day.
Smith: Yeah, he’s an absolute stud. He’s been working with James Irving actually. He’s been in the gym, I’ve been, because of my knee injury, that’s the only reason I couldn’t work with him. I was supposed to start working with him like a month ago but my knee couldn’t hold up to it, so I’ve kind of been sitting in learning from him, and the guy is absolutely great, he’s a stud and I’m very very excited to start grappling with him.
PRO MMA: I was just going to ask you about that. So was it James Irving/Ricardo Barros, was that how he came into the picture?
Smith: He is… Ricardo is managed by the same guy that me and James are.
PRO MMA: Gotcha. So…
Smith: Ricardo actually signed on with the same management team the same week that, or a couple weeks before Ricardo lost to Mark Munoz, which Mark Munoz was one of my, is my wrestling coach, and I just started to train with Ricardo, you know helping with stand-up and he was helping me out with the ground game and once I found out he was fighting my friend Mark, you know, just kind of best interest to stay away. He was at Fairtex with him. It’s great now, we’re all working together and helping each other out now.
PRO MMA: Now are you also still training with Casio Werneck as well?
Smith: I have been, but this last fight I couldn’t because of the knee. When I say I, to be honest with you, I’ve probably had three grappling practices leading up to this fight. And that’s part of the problem with my last fight, and that’s what frustrates me so bad is you know, my boxing looked so bad and I went and got a new boxing coach because training for this fight, I couldn’t kick, my knee was that bad. Ganyao, I still train with him, Ganyao is my Muay Thai coach, his specialty is knees, kicks, and elbows. He’s good with his hands but that’s not his specialty. So I found a, actually another one of James Irving’s coaches, Eric Regan. Absolute stud with his boxing. His kick boxing is actually what he’s more known for but his boxing is really, really good. So I worked with him knowing I couldn’t kick. And umm, umm, so that’s umm, I actually am just kind of rambling right now. I don’t know where I was going with that. I can’t remember the question that you told me. (laughs)
PRO MMA: Hey, I was following you.
Smith: I am completely rambling. I’m getting kind of, I get fired up when I talk about fighting and I’m just rambling on. I’m looking at my computer screen and I’ve got all those fake stars coming at me and kind of got lost in the moment. (laughs)
PRO MMA: Scott, that’s what we love to hear. That’s why we love you bro’, you’re so honest and you’re open with us and we appreciate it. Well Scott, on that, to your training. Your coach, you talked about your boxing and Eddie talked about Ricardo. We’ve heard in the past, some guys that are very good in one area, like for example, Josh Koscheck. He admits that he really doesn’t train his wrestling when he goes into fights, it’s about 95 percent stand-up. We know you are very great with your hands and your stand-up is very, very good. But for a guy like Nick Diaz, who’s specialty is the ground, some guys try to make up for that by shunning their key, their one key asset in their fight game. Are you going to focus more on the ground or are you going to go into this as a normal training camp?
Smith: I’m going to go into it as more of a normal training camp. I am focusing on my ground more, only because I didn’t for my last fight and I need to get back to speed with that. I can’t remember the point I was getting at..one of the frustrating things about this last fight is up until the time of the knee injury I was really getting back to the basics of wrestling. To the point that I was working with my old high school wrestling coach who’s a great wrestling coach. And after the injury I had to get completely away from it. I was kind of like I have to totally go for it. I found a new boxing coach and that was great for me, so it was kind of a blessing in disguise that I hurt the knee, you know, because I found a new great boxing coach and I’m doing more core conditioning because I couldn’t run. Now I’m all about core conditioning. I always try to look at the bright side of things so I’m looking at it as a blessing in disguise now. But I am definitely not going to get away from my basics of Muay Thai. I think anybody can tell you… I, lets just say I think my ground game is way underrated. A lot of people think I have no ground game. So it would be ridiculous for me to say in five weeks I can go and compete with Nick Diaz on the ground, so why would I get away from what I do best, at Muay Thai and boxing to go work on just jiu-jitsu? Now I do have to focus on certain things like getting up off my back, defending the take down and keeping the fight standing, but no. I think that’s completely ridiculous if you get away from what you’re best at.
PRO MMA: Scott, obviously a prediction at this point, I really don’t like when a lot of hosts ask fighters for predictions on how a fight is going to turn out five or six weeks out, but I want to ask you this. Where do you think the most exciting aspect of this fight is going to occur? Is it going to occur in the stand-up, when you guys are fighting for position on the ground? What aspect of this fight is going to be the most exciting?
Smith: I definitely think standing up. Nick is great with his boxing. He’s a tough guy to get a hold of. I’m a great guy for him to go out and show the world that he can pick apart anybody, that he can stay away from somebody with great power. And, likewise, my best chance is going to be standing up and knocking him out, so I think that’s where the fight is going to be exciting. I think all the fight fans in the world, if they see the fight hit the ground, whether I’m on top or bottom, they’re going to say OK, lets get the fight back to the feet and see some action.
PRO MMA: OK. Nick Diaz is from Stockton, California and we know you are from Elk Grove. There is only about 40 miles gap between the two cities and having been in MMA for so long, have you had any previous experiences with Nick Diaz, whether at a show or backstage at an event or promoting somewhere locally and how have those experiences been?
Smith: You know, my second fight, I think back in like 2000, was Nick’s first fight. I think he was 18 maybe 19 years old. I’ve ran into Nick off and on ever since then and actually they’ve been fine. We’re not guys you’d say Nick is one of my good buddies, we haven’t had problems. Ive trained with some of his ex-partners that he doesn’t like and vice-versa but we’ve never had any run-ins. There’s no like local, who’s the, you know what I mean.
PRO MMA: Yeah, yeah. He didn’t try to tell you Stockton is better than Elk Grove?
Smith: No. We haven’t gotten into that yet. We’re still only five weeks out.
PRO MMA: Well, Scott, we want to thank you for joining us here on the show tonight. Before we let you go is there anybody you want to thank, any shout-outs, sponsors or anything like that?
Smith: Yeah, obviously I do appreciate you giving the opportunity for us to do this. Strikeforce for taking care of us fighters and really getting out there and competing with the UFC which is absolutely awesome for us. Showtime for putting the fights on. Its great that Showtime had a bad experience with EliteXC and came back and has taken another chance with Strikeforce and I think they are smart in doing so. Sponsors is really what helps us out. FullTilt Poker, RockStar Energy, and Affliction has really really taken care of me and my management team for making this all happen, MMA Inc. So, thanks for giving me a chance to say that.
PRO MMA: Again, thank you for joining us and I look forward to just at the very end, I look forward to see how you’re going to give Tom Atencio shit after this fight because that’s always a hilarious thing.
Smith: That’s so funny! I was just going to say something about Tom, too. I was going to say, I’m still figuring out, I have a good one, but after the Terry Martin win I announced that he got married to Lance over in Canada, you know that was a little too much, I was very kind with just calling him my masseuse, so…
PRO MMA: I really liked the belly button piercing at Affliction, that one was funny.
Smith: That one was funny because people were like, that’s something that people can believe. If you say he just went and married a guy in Canada, people are like yeah, he’s just being a jackass. But people were like, why would you get a belly button piercing? And you know the funny thing was whenever I’d go out with Tom, you know he’d be talking to a hot chick, I’d say hey, he’s got his belly button pierced. You know, Tom didn’t have a six pack so he doesn’t want to pull his shirt up to prove otherwise, so that’s what’s great. You always gotta do it, and Tom’s not fat by any means, but you always want to say that to your chubby buddies, the guy that doesn’t want to pull his shirt up. You know, like, no, prove it. So that one did work out pretty good.
PRO MMA: The problem is that I am that chubby buddy.
Smith: (Laughs) Well, you better hope your friends didn’t hear that.
PRO MMA: Well I can tap most of them so it’s OK.
Smith: Yeah, that’s true. But they’ll probably wait until your completely drunk to say it.
PRO MMA: Well now that Scott and Eddie are done talking about Eddie’s belly button piercing, we have to go.
To hear the audio version of this interview check out episode 18 of THE INFO (31:10 mark), the official podcast of PRO MMA (promma.info).
By: Matt De La Rosa / Eddie Constantine