Back in 2016, four years into his mixed martial arts career, Louis Smolka was on a tear. The former PXC flyweight champion had amassed a record of 11-1 and won five fights in the UFC since signing with the promotion in 2014. He then hit a rough patch that led to his release at the beginning of 2018.
Smolka decided to take his talents back to the regional scene and in six months, the Hawaiian had stopped three opponents. The UFC offered him a rare second chance in the promotion following the third win. Smolka signed a new four-fight contract with the organization and went to China on relatively short notice to meet Octagon newcomer Su Mudaerji last November. Smolka won the bout via armbar in the second round.
Now fighting at bantamweight, “Da Last Samurai” is refocused and ready to break into the rankings by 2019’s end.
He’ll get the opportunity to take the next step towards that goal when he meets Matt Schnell at UFC Fight Night 146 on March 9.
On almost walking away from the sport
After being released from the UFC in 2018, Smolka had to make a tough decision. He has a family and there isn’t much money to be made on the regional scene. This prompted him to reevaluate his life.
“There’s not a lot of money in the smaller regional promotions. Financially, it didn’t make a lot of sense to go back [to the regional scene]. I was going to walk away from MMA. I was this close to being done.”
While he was wondering what his future would hold, Smolka received the call from the UFC.
“It was just such a relief to be able to continue what I was doing. To get the call, and just realize it’d be okay for at least a little while more. I was like okay this is great, I don’t have to look for a new career. I don’t have to hang the gloves up just yet. I still have more fights left in me, so I was just grateful.”
A second chance in a new weight class
A lot of fighters never return to the Octagon once they’re released. “Da Last Samurai” knows he has been given a unique opportunity and plans to make the best of it.
“I would definitely say I’m taking it a lot more serious. I’m a lot more mature with how I do things. Before I was just like a kid, just kind of having fun with it. You know, I think I might have taken it for granted a bit. I was drinking way too much. I was partying, I was having a good time and I wasn’t taking my diet as seriously as possible. Having it all taken away from you really makes you like appreciate it. It really showed me what I took for granted and made me hungrier.”
During this second run, Smolka joins other fighters who have recently decided to go up a weight class instead of dehydrating themselves to a dangerous point. He feels this will give him more explosiveness and be better for his all-around health.
“I did struggle to make it to 125. Maybe I didn’t take my diet as serious as possible, but at 125 pounds, I had no room for error, you know what I mean? And I don’t know if it should be like that. I would be depleting myself to pretty close to death. I feel like sometimes I literally didn’t have any more muscle left on my body. These guys are like, oh yeah, we’re dehydrating the muscle. Man, I feel like I’m dehydrating like my organs and my bones at this point. Because I don’t think I have much muscle left, you know?”
Louis Smolka’s 2019
After the win in China, Smolka began calling for a fight with Max Schnell. He wasn’t really surprised he got the bout because it was a reasonable request.
“You gotta be within reason. Do you know what I mean? I can’t win one and be like, ‘I want a title shot!’ You’ve got to make sense. You can’t be too out of left field.”
This is indicative of how the 27-year-old is taking his career at this point. His newfound commitment and maturity has lead to him being realistic and setting attainable goals in 2019.
“I’m hoping to come off around two to three wins and be knocking on the door of the top 10 or 15. I’m trying to set myself up for a title run. The goal is always to get a belt. I know we’ve got to take it one step at a time, but I’m always trying to move towards that. I’m always trying to move towards the belt”.
Watch Louis Smolka’s full interview with John Hyon Ko here, and subscribe to Kumite TV:
Brandon is a long-time fan of combat sports who has covered them for various outlets since 2017.