Perhaps the most nail-biting moment of Cole Smith’s UFC debut was when Mitch Gagnon clipped him on the jaw with a hard punch.
Smith staggered backwards, and within seconds, Gagnon was grappling on the ground with the Squamish fighter.
Things weren’t looking good on the last round of his May 4 match during the UFC Fight Night 151 in Ottawa.
Yet, in a few moments, Smith managed to turn the tables and he found himself on top of his opponent.
Seconds before the round ended, Smith was working Gagnon into a rear-naked choke. You could argue that Gagnon was saved by the bell.
It was a remarkable recovery, and a performance that helped Smith secure a victory by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).
“It’s almost better that I kind of took that and fought my way out of it because people know I’m here,” Smith told The Chief on Monday as he was on his way to corner a teammate’s fight.
“I’m serious. I’m not easily put away, you know? I have heart.”
The recovery was just one example of Smith’s grappling ability, which was showcased extensively throughout the match, especially in Round 2.
“I know he’s going to try to get on top and wrestle, but I know when I’m on top — it’s extremely hard for people, man. I’m long, I’m tall, I’m big and I’m strong,” said the 30-year-old.
“I knew if I were to get him down, you know, he wasn’t able to get back up.”
While a first fight in the octagon can be a nerve-wracking experience for many fighters, he said he was calm, because, in fact, he’d already faced the bigger challenges competing locally in B.C.
“I felt there was a lot more pressure on me competing as a local, as opposed to fighting in the big stage,” said Smith.
“Fighting as a local, you lose a round, your stock goes way down. You can’t even look semi-bad, you know what I mean? You need to be on top of your game in the whole fight.”
Smith’s performance and demeanour did not go unnoticed.
UFC commentator and retired fighter Mike Bisping shared Smith’s post-fight interview on his Instagram page.
As for the future, there are three fights left in Smith’s contract.
He says there are rumblings of a fight that will happen in Vancouver in July.
If that happens, he’ll be on the card, he said.
“I’m just overwhelmed by Squamish’s support,” said Smith.
“They’ve been absolutely fantastic with me so I really do thank the town for everything that they’ve done.”
Smith now boasts a 1-0 record in the UFC. His professional record beforehand was 6-0. He trains locally at The Sound gym.