The Ultimate Fighter 16 winner Colton Smith has gotten his UFC career off to a rough start. After defeating Mike Ricci by unanimous decision at the finale, Smith has dropped two straight to fellow TUF winners—a TKO loss to Robert Whittaker and a submission loss to Michael Chiesa.

When Smith takes the cage on Saturday, June 28, at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, his job in the UFC is very much on the line. However, Smith isn’t concerned.

Smith (R) throws a kick (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Smith (R) throws a kick (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“The pressure actually, surprisingly, I would have pressure not having a training camp,” Smith told The MMA Corner. “I’ve had the pressure I always have going in there without a training camp knowing that most likely my opponent’s had a full training camp. So, the pressure actually has subsided. I feel amazing. I’m 6-3 [counting the wins on TUF]. The two losses I’ve had in the UFC and the loss outside the UFC were all fights that I was winning—at some point almost finished—and I ended up losing fights.

“That’s something that I know—there’s nobody in the world that I feel that I can’t hang with. Now that I’ve had a full training camp and I’ve been under the tutelage of Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn and Brandon Gibson, it’s amazing. I can’t even put into words the strides that I have made to become a complete mixed martial arts fighter the last couple of weeks.”

As an active member of the U.S. Army, Smith hasn’t had a true opportunity to immerse himself into his training like other fighters are able to do. Outside of his time on The Ultimate Fighter, training for MMA has always come second to his service. Where most fighters in the UFC train twice a day, five to six days a week, Smith was only able to train three to four times a week.

Heading into his bout with Chiesa, Smith only had about 12 days of actual, focused training. Now, Smith will head into San Antonio with a real training camp under his belt.

“This is my very first real training camp,” Smith said. “I’m an active-duty soldier, and that’s always come first and foremost. After my last fight, my chain of command wanted to do the best they could to give me the best possibility of getting my hand raised in the Octagon. That is having a full training camp, which I have never been able to have.”

At the urging of friend and fellow soldier/UFC fighter Tim Kennedy, Smith made the trek to Albuquerque, N.M., to train with some of the best fighters in the world at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA. Smith couldn’t be happier about the results.

“I’m out at Jackson’s,” Smith said. “I’m with the best. I’ve been here for eight weeks. It’s been amazing. I took a lot of saved up personal leave time to be out here. Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn and Brandon Gibson, it’s been amazing the strides I’ve made the past eight weeks.”

Those eight weeks of focused training will be greatly needed as Smith is set to welcome undefeated Carlos Diego Ferreira to the Octagon. Ferreira is a high-level grappler with five submission victories to his credit. Although the training will play a key role in his success moving forward, Smith’s real weapon is his determination and mental toughness.

Smith (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Smith (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“The intestinal fortitude it takes to be a Ranger-qualified infantryman in the Army and to be a front line soldier who has been deployed and who has been on the front lines, you can’t learn it in a gym,” Smith said. “You can’t be taught it. It’s through some hardships. It’s through instances in my life, whether it was combat or back in the states, that I carry with me in the Octagon.

“With that said, it’s a sport. The Octagon is a sport, the UFC is a sport. Worst-case scenario, I wake up single-legging Herb Dean. Worst-case scenario overseas, I don’t come home to my family. It probably makes me too calm, but it’s alright. That’s the way I look at it. I think it’s funny and cute when other fighters say, ‘I’m gonna go to war,’ or, ‘I’m gonna go to battle.’ They don’t know the first thing about war or battle.”

While titles and championships are the goal of any pro fighter competing in the sport, MMA provides Smith with an important coping tool. As a soldier who has seen combat on the front lines, Smith uses MMA as a way to deal with the stresses of life and the trauma of having been to war.

“Mixed martial arts and the Army Combatives Program has done quite a bit for keeping my mental state proper,” Smith said. “Whenever there’s been a tough day at work or even down range when I was in Iraq, I’d come back and I’d hit the heavy bag or I’d find someone that wanted to grapple in the front yard of the house that we lived in in Iraq. Just having that release, I really wish a lot more soldiers and service members could find a hobby or a release like that.

“For me, mixed martial arts has been that release. It’s something that any time I have a tough day, even at work back here in the states, I know I can go to the gym and take my frustrations out on a training partner or a heavy bag.”

Colton would like to thank his lord and savior, Jesus Christ, as well as the U.S. Army, his family, all of his coaches and training partners at Jackson’s and in Ft. Hood, Texas. He would also like to thank all of his sponsors for their support. Follow Smith on Twitter: @ColtonSmithMMA

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.