View the original article to see embedded media.
Michael Smith is introducing the combat sports world to “Slap Jesus”.
The long-haired native of California is vying to become the first Power Slap welterweight champion. Glimpses of his story have been shared over the past three weeks on Power Slap: Road to the Title, but it is abundantly clear that Smith is comfortable in his role as the underdog. Even on Wednesday’s episode, his personal account was overshadowed by Christopher Thomas, the favorite to win the welterweight title.
“I’m used to it,” says Smith. “I’ve always been a dog. I had a handsome little brother. I was the ugly kid of the family. I got bullied a lot. I always owned it.”
Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Smith discussed Power Slap, fatherhood, and his combat style.
Sports Illustrated: Has it been surreal over the past three weeks to watch yourself slap fighting on TBS?
Michael Smith: I’ve been waiting a long time for something like this. I’m an entertainer. I like to talk s--- and get hit, and here we are. I can’t wait for the other episodes to come out.
SI: The chance to be part of the inaugural season is a life-changing opportunity. But for so long, this has been an underground sport. How did you get involved in slap fighting?
Smith: I’ve been fighting my whole life. I always looked for trouble as a kid. That goes back a long way. Me and my brother grew up in the “Attitude Era” of WWF, with The Rock and Stone Cold, right when Ultimate Fighting Championship became popular. The places I’ve lived, you had to be tough. That’s who I am.
SI: On last night’s episode, you defeated Jesus Gaspar by split decision. Before the bout, one of the coaches—undefeated slap fighter Darius Mata-Varona, who is widely believed to be the best in the world—questioned your toughness. Then you went out and won.
Smith: Don’t question my heart. I’ve only been knocked out twice in my life. And there was a lot of help when it happened. The first time I got jumped by six guys. The second time, my buddies kept letting the guy get up.
SI: Your coach is “Wolverine” Ron Bata, who is the second-best heavyweight in the world, only behind Mata-Varona. They will meet at the Power Slap pay-per-view next month. Who is your pick–Darius or Wolverine?
Smith: I’ve got my money on Wolverine. He’s a little more humble.
SI: You slap on a one-count, which is unorthodox. Why not hit on a multi-count slap?
Smith: I’ve slapped a lot of people. I used to do it to start fights with people. So that’s my style. Actually, I called out Nate Diaz a few years ago. I said I’d change his life with a slap. I still believe that.
SI: Backstage during one of the events, you slapped former UFC welterweight champion Michael Bisping, which took some gumption. How did that play out?
Smith: Bisping came in to interview us, and everyone was so giddy to get slapped by him. When he came to slap me, I slapped him first.
He was surprised. It wasn’t a great slap, but it was good enough. He was coming in for a slap, and I got him first.
SI: You have had a chance to showcase your personality on the show, including wearing a diaper to the weigh-ins for your fight against Gaspar. That’s been balanced by some very real moments where you discussed being a father and failing to have the relationship you wanted with your first five children, but being a better father to your sixth child. Will your children watch you on the show? Is it an opportunity to reconnect with all of them?
Smith: Maybe they’ll watch. It would be cool to share this with them.
SI: This week’s episode ended with Christopher Thomas knocking out Waylon Frost, and Thomas was declared the man to beat in the welterweight division. Even if that proclamation is premature, you are again firmly in the role of underdog.
Smith: I’m just playing my part. All my life I’ve been a dog. Why stop now? I’ll be an inspiration to dogs.