Staff Sgt. Colton Smith may be going into the cage by himself, but at the same time, he’s not.
Smith is representing not just III Corps, but also the entire Fort Hood community that was devastated April 2.
“I definitely love to bear that cross and carry Fort Hood on my shoulders as far as the national media, and winning this fight would be instrumental to the families who were affected by the recent Fort Hood shootings,” Smith said. “That means a lot to me to dedicate this fight to them.”
The Des Moines, Iowa, native will take on Carlos Diego Ferreira in a lightweight (155 pounds) bout at the UFC Fight Night on June 28 in San Antonio.
Smith brings in a 6-3 record and is looking to rebound from a pair of losses in 2013. Ferreira, a native Texan, has a 9-0 record.
Smith joined the Army at 17 when his mom had to provide a signature for him to go to basic training. For him, the military was a better path than wrestling in college.
“Everyone in my family joined up, and we were in a time of war,” Smith said.
He’s served at four duty stations, deployed to Iraq once and has seen 24 countries as an escort to members of Congress.
Smith, who’s been at Fort Hood for two years, grew up wrestling in Iowa and is a big fan of mixed martial arts or any sport that pushes him.
“It keeps my nerves low knowing that I’ve been through a lot worse than what this guy can do to me in the cage,” Smith said.
He said being a soldier has given him a lot of perspective when it comes to fighting in the UFC.
“In fighting, the worst-case scenario is the ref’s going to stop it and you’re going to wake up,” Smith said. “In combat, as a soldier, the worst thing that’s going to happen is you’re not coming home. That’s something that I bring into the cage with me.
“This is a sport, this isn’t life or death, this isn’t war as a lot of fighters or athletes call it. I laugh at that. The toughest people in the world are the men and women who fight overseas day in and day out,” Smith said.
Smith first gained notoriety in the sport two years ago as a cast member of “The Ultimate Fighter: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson,” the 16th season of the reality TV show.
He made his UFC debut Dec. 15, 2012, during the show’s finale in which he beat Mike Ricci via unanimous decision.
The show opened some doors into the business and his standing as an active-duty soldier helped him gain fans.
But not all of them are concerned with strikes, takedowns or knockouts.
“It’s very humbling to see young men and women contact me,” Smith said. “I don’t tell them ‘join the infantry, do what I did.’ I tell them there are around 210 jobs in the Army. It’s really important to me to touch men and women and help them make that decision to make that leap into the military.”
As of Monday, Smith’s official Twitter page has more than 35,000 followers and his official Facebook page has almost 4,000 likes.
Smith is training at Jackson MMA in New Mexico for his fight next month.
He hopes to keep making a name for himself in the UFC and climb the ladder to a world championship.
When the next step approaches June 28, the back of his mind will be on Fort Hood and the families who were affected by the shooting that left four dead and 16 wounded.
“I know it may be a small, itty-bitty grain of sand with what happened, but I hope that I can maybe put a smile on their faces or see that somebody cares,” Smith said.
Contact Albert Alvarado at firstname.lastname@example.org