Jordan Smith keeps telling himself slow and steady, like a tortoise, when it comes to his career.
But things have been moving pretty quickly as of late.
With a week's notice, Smith has a chance to win $100,000 in Bellator's season-six welterweight tournament sits before him, and he doesn't plan on blowing it.
"You've got to take the opportunities when they come, and one of them showed itself," he told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
). "This is my second big opportunity to make the most of it."
The first didn't go so well. Smith, a former middle-school science teacher, managed to make it past the audition process for "The Ultimate Fighter 11" but was knocked out by Brad Tavares in the elimination round. It was his first loss ever.
"That was my first step in to the big shows," Smith said. "It took me a while to find my way back into the mainstream."
Smith did that by hitting the road. He bounced between Brazil and his native Utah under the banner of management team Black House, winning three of his next four fights. This past September, he bucked the stepping stone role assigned to him on Karo Parisyan's comeback trail, upsetting the UFC vet by split decision. He rubbed shoulders with greatness, assiting UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva prepare for Yushin Okami. By the end of the year, he had an attractive 17-2 record for big promotions, but no big fights.
That is, until a few weeks ago when Bellator came calling. Tournament participant Brian Foster wasn't medically cleared to compete in the opening-round, scheduled for Bellator 63, and he got the call.
"Where are we fighting?" was his first question.
The answer is Uncasville, Connecticut, where Bellator 63 takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena. Smith (17-2 MMA, 0-0 BFC) meets David Rickels (9-0 MMA, 3-0 BFC) on the main card of the event, which airs live on MTV2. (Preliminary-card fights stream on Spike.com.)
Smith said he's been traveling so much, he hasn't had much time to watch Bellator, let alone study his opponents. But he knows a big chance when he sees one.
"They all look dangerous," he said. "I'm only on two weeks notice, so I've concentrated on Rickels. I don't want to look ahead from what's in front of me right now. After I win this first round, I'll look deeper into the other guys' records and see some film and see who my biggest problem is going to be."
From what he can tell, the fight should play out on its feet, which means a fast-moving fight.
"Unless one of us gets in trouble in the standup and we have to revert to the ground and jiu-jitsu," Smith said. "I think everyone watching is going to have more fun than me when I'm fighting."
And if things continue this way in his career, Smith might have to adjust his speedometer.