Leslie Smith's plan: Beat Arlene Blencowe at Bellator 233, title shot, face Cat Zingano

THACKERVILLE, Okla. – Leslie Smith has it all mapped out.

Eighteen months ago, that wasn’t the case. Things were uncertain. Smith (11-7-1 MMA, 1-0 BMMA), who has advocated for fighter’s rights, parted ways with the UFC right after Aspen Ladd pulled out of their UFC Fight Night 128 bout in March 2018. Shortly thereafter, Smith was picked up by Bellator.

Friday night, Smith will return for the second fight on her Bellator deal when she takes on Arlene Blencowe (12-7 MMA, 5-3 BMMA) at Bellator 233, which takes place at WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla. The main card airs on Paramount and streams on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.

“I’m thrilled and delighted to be where I’m at right now,” Smith told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “I’m getting to fight for the second time in less than four months. What more could a fighter ask for? Rankings don’t always mean a whole lot, but they do when you’re trying to climb up them.”

One of the reasons for Smith’s excitement? Bellator’s recent additions of major WMMA stars Cris Cyborg and Cat Zingano. Smith, who fought Cyborg in the UFC, hopes to be able to fight both of them in the near future.

“I’m delighted to see Cyborg and Zingano as part of Bellator’s 145-pound division,” Smith said. “It is the best 145-pound division in the world. It’s the best and the deepest and exactly where I want to be. I think that both of those athletes bring so much to MMA in their own ways. I really hope that I get my chance to dance with both of them inside inside the cage.”

Smith believes with near-certainty her Friday night fight will be a number-one contender bout. Despite Bellator’s recent signing of Zingano, Smith still thinks she has a leg up on the former UFC women’s bantamweight title challenger.

“I think that after beating Arlene, that there is not going to be anybody else that is ranked in between the title fight and I,” she said. “I think Bellator has done a great job of being a little more merit-based than a lot of other promotions have been. I feel like they’re going to honor the trajectory a person moves through when they fight in the ranks consistently and win and get that opportunity for the title. I would love to fight with Cat Zingano, but I think that she probably needs a couple tune-up fights before she comes up against me. She has so much to offer Bellator and this women’s 145-pound division.”

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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