The only active-duty soldier to compete in the UFC takes a big step in his return to top-tier mixed-martial arts competition next month, and he's thankful to an Army program that has helped him prepare.
CSF2 offers multiple wellness and self-development programs for soldiers and the extended Army community, but Smith, combatives master trainer for III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, took full advantage of the ones designed to improve focus and calm nerves — skills that he said translate far beyond the cage.
"They teach you how to retain information properly … as well as getting your heart rate down in between rounds of a fight. Or a firefight. Or doing urban operations. Anything," he said. "A soldier is an athlete, bottom line. … They can benefit extremely from the CSF2 guys.
"If your heart rate is going crazy and you're not able to get those butterflies to fly in formation, you're going to make mistakes. Unfortunately, in our profession, you make mistakes, and somebody loses their life."
He signed with WSOF in August, and said the promotion has respected his commitment to active-duty service and also offers opportunities the UFC no longer does when it comes to sponsorships.
"I'm a part of a lot of veteran nonprofits that I wouldn't be able to wear [the logos of] in the octagon in the UFC because of … them not accepting certain sponsors," he said. "With World Series of Fighting, I'm allowed to wear any veteran nonprofit that I can."
Smith's welterweight (170-pound) fight with the Brazilian prospect Da Silva (5-1) won't air as part of the main card on the NBC Sports Network, but he still plans to represent Veteran Outdoors and Operation Grit, a program launched by Disposable Warriors that provides meals to veterans in need. His Enlisted Nine clothing company also will continue its donations to Fisher House, he said. The preliminary bouts are set to stream online at wsof.com.
"I enjoyed it," said Smith, who braved the cold wearing just shorts, slippers and gloves. "It's not nearly as painful as an eight- to 15-minute ice bath. It's something that I'll continue doing."
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.