The confines of a jail cell is a far cry from the comfort of his bed. It feels cold. It feels lonely. It feels like life, in a sense, has come to a standstill. It’s not quite like we would see play out on the television set or in a movie, but it’s still an uncomfortable feeling. There is no sense of having control of your life. Everything is decided for you. It makes even the most menial task so much more complicated. People are sent to places like these because they don’t fit with society’s plans. They don’t follow the rules. They make mistakes.

It was a cocaine-possession charge that landed Nick Smiley in detention. It wasn’t a federal prison by any means, and it certainly wasn’t a holiday camp either.

“I believe we’re molded by the things we go through in life,” Smiley admitted to The MMA Corner. “God gave me a good story by getting through those things. He gave me a good testimony, and I can go out and I can use the sport to reach others.

“I did 90 days in rehab and then six months in a detention center, and I realized how valuable my freedom was—not being able to go to the refrigerator and open it in the middle of the night to find something to eat, that really sucked [laughs]. [I just thought] I wanna live. I wanna live through this. I saw some bad stuff. I stayed to myself. I was really kinda lucky ’cause I was stuck in there with a guy that I kinda grew up with and he ended up being my bunk mate, and we kinda looked out for each other. It wasn’t that bad, you know. It was more of a shock treatment, with the guards trying to scare you straight sorta thing. I kept my nose clean the whole time, and I did my six months and six days.”

Smiley (L) with King Mo Lawal (Twitter)

Smiley (L) with ‘King Mo’ Lawal (Twitter)

Smiley wasn’t always an aspiring mixed martial artist. Like the majority of professional fighters, his background in another combat sport helped him find his way to the lifestyle that he now cherishes. Although his boxing career came to a standstill during the bumpy ride that was his life at the time, Smiley was able to harness that urge to compete to turn things around.

“I was an amateur boxer. I went through a rough patch in my life with drug abuse and stuff like that. And through a mutual friend of a friend, I found MMA. The guy was a big-time grappler, and he knew that I had some boxing experience, so he asked me to come in and train, and that’s when I fell in love with the sport. The sport saved my life. I found out through boxing that I like the physical chess match, I like the one-on-oneness of it,” Smiley admitted. “You know, all fighters, have great teams and great training partners behind them, but when it comes down to it, it’s you and the other guy in there. And worst-case scenario, it comes down to who has the most heart, and I’ve always said that those are the fights that work out best in my favor. If it’s turning into a fist fight, it’s in my favor. Stepping into that cage is just the greatest high I’ve ever had. And believe me, I’ve done more drugs than anybody could ever fathom, but [being in the cage] is by far the greatest feeling.

“I thought [the addiction] would kill me, and a couple of times I almost let it, or tried to let it. I just got so low, but that’s the way that thing works. It lives off the evil in your life. It wants it to let it kill you. The enemy don’t wanna let you succeed by no means, and he tried at every angle, but God prevailed and brought me through to where I’m at now.”

With his vast life experience, Smiley has gone on to spread his message about positive reinforcement. He feels that having belief in one’s self and daring to dream can do wonders for a person’s self-confidence.

“I’ve done a lot of anti-bullying seminars. I grew up getting bullied,” Smiley revealed. “It wasn’t physical, it was emotional, stuff like that. You know, even when I got started in combat sports I had people telling me I couldn’t do it, saying that there was no life in it, that there was no future in it. I’m constantly proving those people wrong too now [laughs]. I work best in the face of adversity. I guess, you know, I’m able to take that in spite of [what] people [say] and prove that you can do anything that you wanna do in life.

“It’s like I told my son—I have a 10-year-old son and a three-year-old son. I told my 10-year old one time—he told me he wanted to be a Russian Cosmonaut—I told him I would spend every dime I had to get him nationalized as a Russian citizen so he could do that ’cause that’s what he wanted to do. I never had that growing up. I never had people telling me I could do anything I wanted to do in life, and I’m a perfect example of anybody who puts their heart and their mind to it and has God on their side. They can do anything they wanna do.”

Smiley’s next bout comes on April 26 when he faces undefeated Adrian Henderson at Conflict MMA: Havoc. Smiley is set to defend his heavyweight title in the main event of the evening in his hometown. Just like any competitor that is set to throw down in front of a large contingent of friends and family, he promises to put on a show to remember.

“I’ve had a real good camp and I’m ready to fight again. Dedication breeds dedication. The more you get, the more you want,” Smiley said. “I’m trying to prove something to myself. Each time I get into the cage, I’m trying to prove that I am better than I was the time before. It’s no longer about beating an opponent, it’s about beating myself. I wanna be better than the guy that stepped in last time.”

Only a small portion of Smiley’s life was spent wading the lowest depths that life can reach. When there comes a time that he has to fill in any kind of paperwork, or if he was to one day apply for a job outside of the cage, he is reminded of what can happen with one small lapse in judgement. He can admit that he has gone down a less than desirable path to get to where he is today, but those six months and six days spent in lock-up shaped him to become the man that he is now.

The cell may have been small, and the expectations of what the man inside it could amount to after doing his time were probably smaller still. However, Smiley doesn’t let what he went through define him. It fuels him to be a better person, and it allows him to inspire others to do the same. What happens in the days, months or even years inside a cell comes down to what a person makes of them. And Smiley, well, he has made damn sure that for him, those days are well and truly numbered.

Nick would like to take this time to show his appreciation to all the family, friends and fans that support him in chasing his dream. First and foremost, he would like to thank God for all the many blessings in his life, and he would also like to thank his fiancé, Sunni, for keeping him uplifted and supporting his dream. He would also like to thank his amazing team and sponsors, including Todd Duffee, Scott Barrett, American Top Team, Down 2 Earth Landscaping, Woody’s Tshirts and Scrubs, Alibis Sportsbar, Bolton Air-Killman Property Service, Evol Ink, Knockout Towing, Gnats Landing, BD Landscaping, Garden City Automotive, Recognizing The Fight Foundation, Champions Training Center, BST Gym and his personal trainer, Chasity Pawvlik. Follow Smiley on Twitter: @Nick_Smiley

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.