A black eye. That's it. That's the worst injury Maurice Smith has suffered in a fight during a career that includes more than 100 bouts...
A black eye.
That’s it. That’s the worst injury Maurice Smith has suffered in a fight during a career that includes more than 100 bouts spread across four continents.
He’s been a world-champion kickboxer, held the heavyweight title in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and in 28 years of fighting, a black eye is as bad an injury as Smith said he ever suffered in a professional fight.
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He’s 46 now, and on Saturday the man who once fought in Japan, Australia and in Europe has a bout just a few highway exits south of his Seattle home, stepping into a cage at the Tacoma Dome to fight Rick Roufus as part of a mixed-martial-arts card that includes former Huskies football player Bob Sapp.
Smith is not dreaming of some glory-road comeback. That time has come and gone. He’s not grasping for some sliver of former glory. He’s a 235-pound man in great shape with dangerous hands and a competitive itch.
“It’s not a matter of me fighting to fight to be a champion again,” Smith said. “I don’t do that. I fight because I enjoy it.”
Smith was a big deal in mixed martial arts before mixed martial arts became as big of a deal as it is today, with top-end fighters signed to contracts that can run into seven figures.
“If I had been born later, I would be a millionaire in this business,” Smith said.
To keep him going in style, it should be noted. Smith drives a Porsche, an ’84 body with a ’94 engine inside. The rims match the car’s cream-colored paint job.
Smith attended West Seattle High School, where he played football and participated in gymnastics. He’s worked at Boeing, Barrier Motors and been a welder for Coca-Cola in Bellevue, but since 1990, he’s had only two jobs: fighting and training fighters.
His interest in martial arts goes back a little further. He backed down from a fight when he was a kid and found he didn’t like that feeling. And when he saw Bruce Lee’s “The Chinese Connection,” he got pointed toward the remedy.
Smith became a world-class kickboxer, a sport in which the fighters are allowed to punch, kick and sometimes knee the opponent. Smith marks 1996 as his first mixed-martial-arts fight, a broad term invented to describe a bout in which fighters can exchange blows while on their feet or grapple on the ground.
There are rules in today’s mixed martial arts, such as no gouging the eyes, no punching the back of the head and no blows to the groin. But if you want to punch an opponent in the face, you can do that. Want to kick him? Go right ahead, so long as you’re not booting the head of a downed opponent. Feel compelled to pick your opponent up and slam him down? You can sure try.
Smith fought for the UFC heavyweight title in 1997 against the big and burly Mark Coleman, a man with a ground-and-pound fighting style. Pretty self-explanatory — Coleman was a wrestler who sought to take his opponent to the ground, get on top of him and rain down elbows and fists.
Smith weathered the blows and ended up taking Coleman into the later rounds of their fight — the deep water, Smith calls it. The arms get heavy, the will can bend. Smith kept chopping away with kicks to Coleman’s legs, each one landing with a thwack against the thigh, like a baseball bat striking a side of beef. Coleman was too tired to get out of the way. Smith won a decision.
Smith counts his total bouts at 106, including kickboxing, mixed martial arts and other variations of professional fighting. He’s lost nine mixed-martial-arts matches and somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen kickboxing matches. Maybe a few more.
But in his third decade of a pro career, it’s not the record that Smith measures himself by — it’s the fights themselves.
“It’s all competition to me,” he said. “I like the competition.”
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org