Louis Smolka wasn’t interested in throwing a party to commemorate his three-year anniversary in the UFC this January.
“I didn’t celebrate at all,” he laughs. “I was pissed about the loss to Borg.”
The defeat on the final card of 2016 was Smolka’s second in a row following an upset submission loss to Brandon Moreno last October. And while both stung, coming up short against fellow flyweight contender Borg really soured the Hawaiian, as his opponent came in at 129.5 pounds for the bout.
“I’m kind of annoyed with Borg missing weight,” Smolka said. “I’m pretty sure he was scared and he knew that if he actually cut the weight, he wouldn’t have had a size advantage and he would have been screwed against me. He wouldn’t have been able to take me down or do anything if we were the same size. He struggled with me and I was dead. I was so sick and I still cut the weight and for him to not do it, I was like, ‘You’re just a clown.’”
Guys like Smolka are cut from a different cloth, though, and he’s proved it throughout his career. Short notice fights, opponent changes, overweight foes, it’s never mattered to him, so when it happened again with Borg, he didn’t blink.
“The only reason I did that is because I had gotten away with so many situations like that in the past and I said ‘We’ll try it again.’”
This time it backfired, leaving him in an interesting spot heading into his Saturday bout against Ultimate Fighter 24 winner and recent world title challenger Tim Elliott. But his mindset hasn’t changed.
“It (the two losses) didn’t really affect me too much as far as changing how I train because I always train as hard as I can and do everything I can to get better and always perform and always win.”
Yet there is more attached to this bout – and every future one – as Smolka and his fiancée welcomed a daughter 15 months ago. So it’s now that he can reflect on three years in the UFC.
“It’s flown by, but I’ve had a great time,” he said. “It’s been awesome. I was able to buy a house and a car and get engaged. But honestly, I’m not gonna lie, that first year in the UFC I blew all my money so fast. (Laugh) I never had money before, I was a kid. That was the first time I had any money to my name. I was like, ‘I’m going out tonight.’”
At 25, Smolka has matured.
“When I found out that my fiancée was pregnant, I said we should probably start saving some money,” he said. “It’s not about me anymore. It’s scary and it’s hard to be responsible, but it seems kind of natural. As soon as I realized we were having a kid, I was like, ‘Okay, we need health insurance, we need dental, we need a college fund.’ I kind of freaked out, but it was natural to me to take care of all those things.”
And with matters taken care of outside of the Octagon, he can focus on what happens inside it, beginning with his showdown against Elliott, a clear Fight of the Night candidate he can’t wait to get on with.
“Honestly, I jumped at it just for the opportunity to fight the guy who just fought (UFC flyweight champion) Demetrious (Johnson),” Smolka said. “I know I kind of got screwed over the last couple fights, but I still did lose, so I see this fight as a gift to me. It was a great opportunity so I jumped at it. And the more I thought about it, I was like, ‘This is gonna be crazy because this guy scrambles like me, he’s down to bang, and he’s a game fighter.’”
Or in other words, it’s a new year and a fresh start for “Da Last Samurai.”
“It is nice to know there’s still some faith in me,” he said. “I know I’ve not really put my best foot forward the last two and I’m just trying to learn and grow from it and be more humble and respectful.”