Seeking his third straight win on the regional scene, Louis Smolka isn’t one to look too far ahead. But when opportunity comes knocking right on his front door, he’s not going to ignore it.
Bellator recently announced that it would be holding its first show in Hawaii this coming December, which peaked the interest of many of the island’s top fighters, including Smolka, a former standout in the UFC’s flyweight division.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested
— Louis Smolka (@LASTSAMURAIUFC) September 13, 2018
It’s no secret that Smolka, 27, is looking for a return to the major leagues. Back in April, he told MMA Fighting that his primary goal was to fight his way back in the UFC. He’s already racked up a couple of victories in 2018 and looks to add a third when he faces Kyle Estrada at California Xtreme Fighting 15 in Burbank, Calif., on Saturday.
Should he see his hand raised and emerge from the fight relatively unscathed, Smolka would also be open to fighting at Bellator’s Dec. 15 show in Honolulu should the matchmakers come calling.
“That’s definitely a big thing,” Smolka told MMA Fighting. “It would be awesome to fight at home for a big show, big production values. Bellator, they do real well with their production, they have the ramp, the fireworks, it’s kind of like a mini-Pride or Rizin, so I mean it’s fun, I’d love to do it. It sounds like a great time, it sounds like a ton of fun.”
That said, Smolka is staying savvy when it comes to making his next big move. Though the prospect of Bellator making regular trips to Hawaii is intriguing, he’s been in the game long enough to consider all the factors that go into signing a longterm contract. For one, Bellator does not currently have a dedicated men’s flyweight division, which is the only weight class that Smolka plans to compete in.
“That’s part of the thing we’d have to talk about,” said Smolka. “What weight, who would the opponent be? I’m not fighting some gigantic ‘35er, like, ‘This motherf**ker cuts from 170, I’ve never been 170 in my life!’”
Another important factor that Smolka seeks in a deal with a major promotion is more individualized contracts. Since leaving the UFC, Smolka has seen both the peaks and valleys of small MMA shows. On the plus side, he’s been able to negotiate clauses that companies like the UFC would likely not consider. Smolka was originally supposed to fight Jared Papazian at CXF 15, and due to Papazian’s history of struggling to make the cut down to 125 pounds, Smolka’s negotiated a bonus fee for their fighter should Papazian fail to make weight (Papazian would end up withdrawing due to an injury and be replaced by Estrada).
On the negative side, he’s had to deal with situations that would never happen in the majors. In April, Smolka was supposed to fight Ralph Acosta. Acosta was switched out on short notice for “some dude that did not have a Sherdog or anything” and Smolka didn’t find out until the day of the weigh-ins who he would actually be fighting. Fortunately for Smolka, he was able to pull out a first-round TKO.
Smolka’s next fight was at a Destiny MMA show on June 23 in Honolulu, where he defeated Tycen Lynn by third-round submission. That taste of home cooking reminded him why booking more dates on the island would be so appealing.
“It was pretty nice fighting at home,” said Smolka. “Home field advantage is a thing. It really is nice being home, just being familiar with everything. Having my friends and stuff, being able to be home, not having to be traveling in a hotel room or anything.
“It takes forever to do stuff, when you’re in another city, one thing I noticed is it takes forever to get anything done. It takes two hours to go eat just because nobody knows where the hell you’re going or you’ve got to get a taxi or whatever.”
Though he hadn’t heard many rumblings before Bellator’s Honolulu show was announced, Smolka isn’t surprised that the card came to fruition especially with Hawaii’s own Ilima-Lei Macfarlane leading the charge. The Bellator women’s flyweight champion has emerged as a star in the promotion and Smolka says she’s already been contacting local gyms to get as many Hawaiian fighters on the card as possible.
Whether that includes Smolka remains to be seen. He’s fully focused on defeating Estrada on Saturday, and is keeping his options open after that. The UFC’s flyweight division is as enticing as ever, especially with the seemingly indomitable Demetrious Johnson having been wrestled down from the mountaintop by Henry Cejudo. In Smolka’s view, that result has breathed new life into the roster.
“I think everybody’s going to be going after it since Demetrious lost,” said Smolka. “It looks like everybody f**king wants it. I feel like the division — it’s hard to be motivated knowing that you have to go up against a dude that looks unbeatable, like, ‘What the f**k am I supposed to do? How the f**k am I supposed to beat this guy?’ It’s not like you’ve seen this dude get beaten a bunch of times or you’ve seen chinks in his armor, there is nothing there. Nobody had come close to beating Demetrious, so it’s kind of hard to be motivated to get up in the morning to get ready to go fight that.
“But now that Cejudo is the champ, it looks like everybody is motivated and hungry and wants it.”
Smolka made his way into the top 10 while competing inside the Octagon, but a four-fight skid led to his departure from the company. He’s made numerous life changes (including cutting alcohol out of his routine) to get himself back in the win column and he thinks he’d match up well with whoever the UFC has to offer.
“I would love to get back in there,” said Smolka. “I think I could do very well. I’ve fought a lot of the top guys, I didn’t have the best runs against them, but I’ve changed a lot, I’m not the same guy that I was in the UFC.”