Leslie Smith Talks Future; Championing Fighters’ Rights Movement

It has been a few months since Leslie Smith was let go of her contract from the UFC. The reasons why this happened is one of controversy.

For those who don’t know the story, Smith was scheduled to face Aspen Ladd at UFC Fight Night in Atlantic City, New Jersey in April, but Ladd missed weight. Smith saw this as a break, since her contract with the UFC would be up if she fought Ladd. Smith would agree to fight Ladd at a catch weight if the UFC would extend her contract for one more fight after Ladd, so she could negotiate a new multi-fight deal. The UFC decided to simply drop Smith and pay her out.

Smith claims that her starting “Project Speahead”, an organization looking to establish if fighters are UFC employees, and if so would start a push for a union, caused the UFC to end her contract.

The event actually was a mixed blessing, because it not only gain Project Spearhead media, but also sped up the process to see if UFC fighters are employees. Smith filed a claim with the National Labor Relation Board on her contract grievance.

The NLRB, who is deciding her case, made a decision Friday to persue the case, but will have to go through the Washington bureau for further scrutiny; a political tactic according to Smith, who has been seeing an anti-union sediment in the current political climate.

We caught up with Smith to talk about where she is now mentally, physically, and professionally.

“It’s not that I want to get back into the UFC, but I would like the last fight (on my contract). I would like to have the same fight against the same opponent. I feel like that is unfinished business now. I really want that last fight.”

“I really don’t want to be in the UFC unless things change. If they are open to me coming back then that means they are open to there being change. It is important to me that the fighters are represented and they feel like they can speak up and their needs are respected.”

“In regards in where my next fight is, hopefully I will get to work with the UFC, but who knows? If not, may I would like to be in Bellator…I think it is awesome to come to Bellator specifically. It has been awesome to come and see the community feel of it and the respect everyone has. It is really nice to see how the fighters are treated.”

When asked what weight she would like to fight, Smith expressed she would like to go down to 125 again if the Bellator opportunity arose. Smith has fought twice at that weight for Invicta and went 1-1.

Bellator President Scott Coker told us he was interested in Smith, and would talk to her management in the near future.

How is it being the person who is not afraid to stand up to the Goliath? Smith is well familiar with do this in the past, having protested the corporation Monsanto and last year helping with the protest of the Dakota pipeline. This movement, however, is one that she is “spearheading” and a lot of eyes are on her to succeed, with only quiet support from fighters.

“There is always stress and pressure. That’s just how life is. That is what making difficult decisions leads to, but I am okay with it.”

Smith takes a positive spin on her current in her current hiatus from competing on the big stage. When she will return is unclear, but now she looks at the time as a well to heal and develop.

“I am doing fine. I have been training like I always do. To be a part of Keri’s camp is amazing….Sometimes it is nice to not be in a fight camp. I get to look at things from a slightly different prospective. That is a fun thing that now I can be focused on being a better martial artist.”

“In the whole scheme of things I think this is the best possible thing for my development of being a martial artist, even though it isn’t good for my fighting career. I am looking at the bright sides as best as I can and I do feel some sadness about the fact that I’m I am unable to fight the best bantamweights right now. It would be what I rather be doing. At the same time I feel like I am developing as a martial artist and I am doing what is important to me. That is always a good thing to get to practice what we think is the right thing to do.”

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