There comes a point in any combat sport when an athlete must taste defeat. It happens to everybody. Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Fedor Emelianenko—they all lost. They all experienced what it means to be unsuccessful. Everybody loses. Even the greats.

Smith (Anton Geyser)

Smith (Anton Geyser)

EFC Africa’s Jeremy Smith experienced his first professional defeat on Oct. 10, 2013, when he lost the EFC Africa middleweight title to Garreth McLellan. Smith learned that he wants to experience that winning feeling even more than ever before.

“Every fighter loses. I was on an 11-fight win streak,” Smith explained to The MMA Corner. “It hurts, but it made me better, more determined, more dedicated and totally focused on winning.”

The transition from Muay Thai to mixed martial arts had Smith hooked on striving to be the best fighter that he could be. If it wasn’t for Muay Thai, he may have taken a different path in life.

“I was studying to be a graphic designer, but got into Muay Thai and loved it. Thank God I’ve managed to forge a career as a professional fighter,” Smith explained. “I was always a tough fight and enjoyed a good scrap. Once I found Muay Thai competition—and then MMA—I knew I had found my calling. I love the lifestyle, the discipline. Training and competition drive me to be my best. [I love] being able to be my own boss and not having a nine-to-five desk job. The physicality is the part I enjoy most, pushing myself to be the best version of myself possible.”

For any fighter that competes outside of the United States, there is always a dream of taking their craft to the biggest market for mixed martial arts. Smith has been lucky enough to not only fight in America, but to find success whilst doing so. Fighting outside of his own country was one thing, but for Smith, it was transitioning between shows in his home country that he sees amongst his biggest achievements.

“I’ve always fought in South Africa and America; it wasn’t like I stopped fighting at home,” Smith explained. “What was great, though, was moving from a smaller show in South Africa to the big stage of the EFC. [Another career highlight] has to be beating Joe Ray, on points, in his hometown in the United States. He hurt me, fractured my eye socket, but I pushed through, stayed aggressive, went for it and won.”

In his return to the EFC Africa cage on May 1 at EFC Africa 29, Smith will meet Michiel Opperman, who comes into the bout riding a three-fight losing streak inside the EFC Africa cage. Opperman will be desperate to get back to his former winning ways, but Smith is confident in his preparation for the fight and plans to put a foot into the right direction towards regaining his middleweight strap.

“Fight camp is going extremely well. I did the initial four weeks at home with Marc Hebert, Nic Durandt and the Gorilla Warfare and Durandt’s Boxing crew. Then, I went to American Top Team in Florida and trained with the likes of Hector Lombard, Thiago Alves and Robbie Lawler, which helped me exponentially,” Smith admitted. “The last four weeks has been back home with my standard crew. We have worked very hard and are supremely confident for this fight with Michiel Opperman.”

Smith (Anton Geyser)

Smith (Anton Geyser)

The sad fact is that in mixed martial arts especially, a fighter is only remembered for their last performance. No matter what has happened in the past, the last fight remains at the front of the mind for fans, media and peers. It could even be said that the most important bout for a fighter is the first one after a loss.

“Some fighters may feel that; I don’t,” Smith confessed. “Every fight is my most important fight. I’ve always wanted to be the best. I work hard and I dedicate myself to the game. I will get my title back this year. Nothing will stop me.”

After experiencing for the first time in his professional mixed martial arts career what it is like to taste defeat, Smith plans to ensure that it is not a feeling that he ever has to go through again. With the EFC Africa middleweight title in his crosshairs, you can be sure that, come May 1, Smith is going to show a champion’s effort inside the cage.

Jeremy would like to thank his sponsors: Pitbull Energy Products, Auto Armor, Manitou Group, RDB consulting, Muscle Tech, Affliction, MMA Warehouse, Carbon Black Auto and Mozambik Restaurants. He would also like to extend thanks to his coaches: Marc Hebert, Nic Durandt, Graham Edwards, Dwight Egelhoff and Leon, as well as everyone else who has sparred, rolled or helped him along the way. Follow Smith on Twitter: @PitbullSmithMMA

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.