Smith (37-18 MMA, 12-8 UFC) was illegally kneed by then-light heavyweight champion Jones (27-1 MMA, 21-1 UFC) in their title fight at UFC 235 in March 2019. Smith elected to continue fighting, and lost the fight by unanimous decision despite Jones being deducted two points.
Cormier argues that Smith would have financially positioned himself in a great spot if he took the win over Jones, which would have set up an inevitable immediate rematch. He pointed to Aljamain Sterling as an example, when he was rendered unable to continue after absorbing an illegal knee in his title fight vs. Petr Yan. Sterling won the rematch and went on to defend the bantamweight title a UFC record three times.
“That’s when Anthony was like, ‘You know what, man, if I just sit here, and I don’t do this no more, there’s a possibility for me to get all this money and come back as the champ’ – and then his pride got in the way,” Cormier said on a recent episode of The Joe Rogan Experience.
“And he got up there and he finished the fight. He was down three rounds to one at that time, and he fought, and I thought it was a mistake because he took an illegal knee. It is what it is. Jones got deducted a point, and still won the fight comfortably. That’s how much he was ahead. He got a two-point deduction, and still won.”
Smith has since gone 5-4. He returns to action in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 233 co-main event against Khalil Rountree (12-5 MMA, 8-5 UFC) at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The card streams on ESPN+.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 233.