That begs the question, though, will Smolka now fall in love with his hands?
“I’ve always been trying to learn,” he laughs. “It’s what Hawaii’s known for, the hands, so I had to learn. I was the only ground guy (in the gym).”
So he’s on the upswing as a striker?
“I definitely feel like I am.”
With his hands catching up to a stellar ground game that has produced seven submission wins, there’s even more reason to be excited when the 28-year-old steps into the Octagon. At least that’s the feeling from his opponent, Kenney, who is certain that when it’s time to fight on Saturday, Smolka will be there to scrap. That kind of respect from an opponent means a lot to the Hawaiian.
“It’s like a mutual respect thing,” he said. “And it’s fun. If he knows that’s what I’m about, then the fans definitely know that’s what I’m about, and that’s the goal, to entertain the fans. And that’s what we’re here to do, to make them look forward to my fight, and if my opponent is looking forward to it, then the fans definitely have to be. So it’s a really good feeling to be recognized and knowing that the things I’ve been trying to accomplish are paying off.”
Even in the midst of a pandemic. That’s an impressive feat. So since Smolka loves the chaos and short-notice fights, can we expect to see him in June if a spot is available?
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I would be down. That sounds like a great idea.”
Maybe Smolka has found his happy place. No talk of rankings or moving up the ladder, no picking the right fights to get him in the title race.
“The situation in the world is changing day to day and I’m just taking it as it comes,” he said. “I’m not rocking the boat, I’m happy and I’m gonna make the best out of anything.”
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