Just hours away from her scheduled bout versus Jesse Miele at Bellator 241 in March, featherweight Leslie Smith became one of the first fighters to have her fight and entire card scrapped due to the onset of the novel coronavirus.
For Smith, who had seen just about every circumstance surrounding a cancellation before in her 11 year career, missing out on a bout due to a pandemic lockdown was unique in its own ways.
“It was super crazy,” Smith told MMAWeekly.com. “I can’t say it was the first time that I’ve gone through that; the full preparation, weighing in, and then not getting to fight, but this time it was a lot bigger than myself. Because this time it was about Covid it was way bigger than me.
“It was tempting to think about myself and feel sorry for myself, but it became very clear there were a lot more situations going on that were a lot more important.”
Smith opted to spend her time during lockdown with her family. And thanks to her mother, who took over her nutrition and training, Smith was able to come out of the time off feeling like a better fighter.
“I think I came back from that in better shape than I was in the first place,” said Smith. “It’s amazing how much easier it is to run and workout when I already haven’t done three workouts in a 48 hour period of time. It felt good.
“I was able to see progress in my body that I normally didn’t see because I didn’t have the sort of latent nagging injuries that come from fighting that I needed to deal with and my energy was devoted to healing. I feel like I was able to develop as an athlete a lot during that shutdown time when the gyms were closed, so it was a very easy transition to jump back into a training camp.”
This Friday in Uncasville, Connecticut, Smith (11-8-1) will finally have her first fight of the year when she takes on Amanda Bell (7-6) in a preliminary 145-pound bout at Bellator 245.
“She’s a brawler and she likes to come forward, and I’ve had to chase down my last several opponents, so it’s nice that I don’t think I’m going to have to chase her down,” Smith said of Bell.
“I feel like I’m more technical than she is. I feel I have a deeper understanding of the fight game and the mechanics of the striking than she does, and I’m going to be able to use that knowledge as well as my speed to drop her.”
Following a two year layoff prior to her return to fighting last year, Smith would like to be productive to close out 2020 after having missed out on over half the year already.
It would be wonderful if I can get in two fights this year,” said Smith> “After not being able to fight for a long time, having a two year layoff, being able to join Bellator (in 2019) and have two fights in a year was amazing, so hopefully I’m going to be able to do that again this year.
“That would be wonderful, but it’s not necessarily something I have control over beyond what I do inside the cage, so in that sense I have to focus on the fight in front of me and make as big of a statement as I possibly can and go from there.”