UFC middleweight Anthony Smith has 40 professional fights under his belt, plus an additional 30 or so as an amateur.
In all that time, since he was 17, Smith says he's never really asked for a specific opponent. But he's ready to ask for one now.
Smith (28-12) is coming off arguably the biggest win of his career, a third-round stoppage over Hector Lombard on Sept. 16 in Pittsburgh. The 29-year-old has now won 11 of his last 12.
Despite good momentum at 185 pounds, Smith's weight cut is difficult and he says he's open to moving up to light heavyweight. He's currently asking to fight Gokhan Saki, a veteran kickboxing champion who scored a first-round knockout in his UFC debut last weekend.
"I'm done fighting whoever they put in front of me, because I've been doing that for the last decade. I've never argued with the UFC. I've never said, 'I'd rather fight this guy or that guy.' I think it's time for me to start asking for things, and I want to do it in a respectful way."Anthony Smith
"I think that's a fight for the fans," Smith told ESPN. "That's a fight on paper that makes you say, 'Holy s---, that's gonna be crazy.' That's what I'm pushing for and we'll see what the UFC says.
"I'm done fighting whoever they put in front of me, because I've been doing that for the last decade. I've never argued with the UFC. I've never said, 'I'd rather fight this guy or that guy.' I think it's time for me to start asking for things, and I want to do it in a respectful way. I don't want to demand things. I want a big name and I want them to put my career in my own hands."
If a fan-friendly fight against Saki (1-1) isn't on the table, it might simply be because Smith is too experienced for him at this point. And should that be the case, Smith believes he'll likely stay at 185 pounds.
The Nebraska native says he's always had a Midwest approach to fighting -- he describes it as, "Work hard and deal with whatever's put in front of you" -- but he also wants to capitalize on this recent victory over Lombard, who has held championship titles in organizations outside the UFC.
"A lot of people wrote me of in the Lombard fight, that guy's been killing people for years," Smith said. "My style, even though it's exciting, it's not always pretty. I tend to make fights ugly and Hector is just one of those guys, he makes everybody look bad.
"But I think I gained a lot of respect with the fans and the UFC by proving, if you put me in those positions, I'll show up. I think my next fight will be big."
If Smith ultimately stays at middleweight, he's looking forward to visiting the UFC's Performance Institute in Las Vegas to take a thorough, scientific look at his composition and weight management.
For someone whose walking-around weight can be as high as 230 pounds, cutting to 185 is never going to be easy. But Smith is confident some improvements in that area could make a big difference for him.
"If you look at me in the gym and then watch me fight, you'll say, 'Man, something is missing there,'" Smith said. "And I think it's the weight cut. I think I'm draining myself a little too much and I'm not able to perform. The UFC is going to bring me out to Vegas and I'll see what I can do different."