For years, Nick Smiley has gotten a kick out of inflicting pain. Now, he’ll be doing it for a living.
After successful amateur stints in both boxing and mixed martial arts, the Brooklet native has his first professional fight scheduled for this Friday night at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, S.C.
“I’m already anxious about it,” says Smiley. “It’s been tough sleeping the past few nights. I want to hop in the ring and get it started right now.”
Smiley has been ready for months, but had to wait for his body to catch up.
In his final amateur fight, Smiley tore a muscle in his back while throwing a punch. Fighting through the pain, he was still able to record a first round knockout, but had to put off the start of his professional career for a couple of months while recovering.
“It hurt pretty bad,” said Smiley. “I didn’t even want the referee to raise my arm to declare me the winner at the end. It still hurts a little while training, but I’m good to go. If you feel 100 percent going into a fight, then you aren’t training hard enough.
The pains of competing at the professional level are burdens that have to be endured, but the perks go a long way to comfort Smiley.
“I don’t concern myself with how much I can get paid to fight, but the money is definitely nice,” said Smiley. “Watching MMA grow over the past few years, this has been a dream of mine. Now I’m in a spot where it’s the right time for me get started.”
Endorsements are another new aspect of a professional fighter’s life. Smiley has signed on with Mammoth Entertainment and is already reaping the benefits of a solid amateur reputation and a good management team.
“I never would have thought that I would get an endorsement right away,” said Smiley. “Andrew Beach runs the endorsement and law side of my management team. As soon as I signed, he told me that Fighter Warehouse was waiting to endorse me. Now they’re providing Tapout gear for myself and my whole team.”
For his first professional opponent, Smiley will square off against Cody Bruns, who is 1-0 in his career. The pre-fight stats seem to work in Smiley’s favor. At 6-foot-5, Smiley will have a height advantage over his 6-foot-2 adversary. Smiley also suspects that he will have a weight advantage over Bruns when the two are officially weighed before the fight.
The most important edge may be the knowledge that Smiley has on Bruns after doing his homework with trainer and corner man Colin Smith.
“We’ve all watched a lot of tape on (Bruns),” said Smiley. “I feel like we’ve devised a pretty good game plan. I know what to expect from him and we’ve worked on how I’m going to respond to it and counter attack.”
“I’m really confident in Nick,” said Smith. “He’s really improved in all aspects of his fighting. He works really hard and is in very good condition. We know how we want to approach the fight and I’m confident that Nick can go out there and win it.”
A good plan is vital for success, as a professional fight is much more demanding. Instead of the three-minute rounds that Smiley fought in as an amateur, he must now endure three five-minute rounds of nonstop action.
“It’s brutal squaring off with someone for that long,” said Smiley. “Cardio and endurance are a huge part of my training. If you get gassed in the middle of a fight, you’re in a lot of trouble. I’ve trained by sparring for five, six, even seven minutes at a time against a fresh sparring partner in each round.”
To avoid the grind of a long fight, Smiley never hesitates to end a fight as soon as possible. With professional fighting’s less strict rules, a quick ending may become an even better proposition for him. While Georgia amateur rules prohibit elbow or knee strikes to the head of an opponent, those are now fair game, playing right into Smiley’s hands.
Muay thai – a stand-up fighting style highlighted by clinching and knee strikes - is his preferred method of fighting. With Smiley able to fight in his comfort zone, he anticipates a good start to his professional career.
“I think that I’m very well prepared,” said Smiley. “I finally get to fight exactly how I practice and train. If I get him in the clinch, (Bruns) is going to be in trouble. If he doesn’t get away from me and tries to fight my style, it’s going to be a bad day for him.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.