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Jimmy Smith: I’m 90% sure that I won’t be back with Bellator

By Zach Arnold | January 12, 2011

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Consider this a head scratching moment for MMA fans. Jimmy Smith and Sean Wheelock were really one of the better MMA commentating duos out there. Always a honest and professional job. I enjoyed their work immensely on the Bellator broadcasts. So, naturally, Jimmy is now on the sidelines and rumored to be replaced by Neil Grove, of all people.

During a Monday night interview on Tapout radio, you can sense the confusion and bewilderment from Jimmy in regards to why he hasn’t heard from the Bellator office regarding his employment with the company in 2011.

INTERVIEWER: “What’s going on with Bellator? I mean instead of us just asking questions in particular, why don’t you just tell us what you got to say about Bellator basically?”

JIMMY SMITH: “Well, it’s… it’s kind of strange, I haven’t heard anything since early December. I want to say like December 1st, maybe even the end of November. Pretty much we had a, you know, we still have a contract through 2011 but they, the deal was they wanted me to sign an extension and, you know, for various reasons I didn’t like the extension and so I haven’t heard anything in, God, coming up on two months now and, uh… so it’s, I find it highly unlikely I’ll be coming back to Bellator. They’re getting ready to start up I think next month, so looks like they’re going in another direction so far in terms of commentary but I’m still under contract, you never know how it’s going to go. They could come back and start negotiation again but like I said I haven’t heard anything in about two months so looks like they’re going in another direction commentary-wise, so… that’s the deal as far as I know it.”

INTERVIEWER: “It looks like it or it is? Like, I mean have you received confirmation from Bjorn or anybody?”

JIMMY SMITH: “Nobody. Nothing. But they don’t have to, you know, I haven’t received confirmation from anybody. But I haven’t, you know, it’s just like negotiations about the, um… extension were really short. Really short, and it was, you know, I thought the deal we already had through 2011 was better and so I said, hey, why don’t we stick with the contract we already have and that was it. That was it. I haven’t heard anything in, like I said, almost two months now. So everybody keeps telling me the same things. The reason I’m talking about it at all is because, you know, a lot of people are now calling me for interviews about Bellator and you know what’s going and you know Mauro Ranallo called me last week and goes kind of like, hey, what’s going on with Bellator, we want to do an interview with you and I said, uh… can’t help you, man. You know it’s like people assume that I’m coming back next year and I would say right now I’m 90% I’m not. So, it’s funny because you get these calls about interviews and about Bellator coming up and I’m out of it, I don’t, you know, so it’s… you know, it’s an interesting, it’s a difficult situation but I’d say 90% I’m not coming back. You know I still could back and do something but 90% I’m not, which is weird.”

INTERVIEWER: “Now does the pre-existing contract go through the season of 2011? So are you still set to be paid even though if things do fall through?”

JIMMY SMITH: “No, what happens is they have the option to basically decide whether or not I come back. It’s entirely up to them. We have an agreement but it’s entirely up to Bellator at this point as to whether or not I’ll be coming back, so… um… you know it’s up to them…”

The radio conversation took some interesting turns from there.

His thoughts on why his partnership with Sean Wheelock worked so well:

“Well, the thing is that MMA, in the MMA community as a whole, um, can be very critical. it can be a rough crowd, it really can be. The fans in MMA really care about the sport and they are really particular about what they see and hear and we got nothing but positive feedback in 2010. I mean as tough as it can be to please the crowd every week in MMA, I thought we got a lot of positive feedback, a lot of the media, a lot of the fans really seemed to like us and what we were doing and that’s a hard thing to do. You know I mean there was an article on Sherdog about really how bad MMA announcing can be. It was really, really critical and really harsh and, you know, it’s hard to find a team that can do well every week and the people respond to, especially in MMA where the fans are really, really opinionated and I thought we worked really well and the fans seemed to enjoy us. You know, it’s not an easy thing to get.”

“The space and the timing and allowing the other person talking and you come back in is not easy to get, it’s a really difficult thing to do because it’s me and Sean (Wheelock) in there and we’ve been working together I think for three years now and it’s that timing, it’s that idea of when to talk and when he’s not going to talk, I don’t talk over him, we don’t yell at the same time and stuff like that, that’s not an easy thing to get. I mean, broadcasting is a skill, it’s not easy to teach somebody how to do that. You know what I mean? You kind of have to figure that and it’s not easy to do and it’s not an easy thing to throw somebody into. You know, you see a lot of promotions like they’ll get a fighter and just throw them in there because they were a great fighter and they got a lot of fan appeal that they’ll be a good broadcaster and they’re not. It’s not easy to do.”

As for why Bellator isn’t showing interest in bringing him back, he’s perplexed given his self-assessment on how he did on television:

“With the way 2010 ended with Bellator and everything, it didn’t occur to me that there would be any problems. You know what I mean? Everybody keeps asking that, oh what do you plan to do and I was like, I didn’t plan to not be at Bellator in 2011. That really didn’t occur to me until, you know, until the negotiations bogged down. So it was, you know, when you say we’ll what do you lined up? Well I have a lot of things in the offing but, you know, this is a kind of shock to me as well, so it’s about reorganizing everything. But I do have my gym, Sweet Science, and that’s going really well so I asked them to keep me busy in the mean time, for sure.”

“All we heard in 2010 was how great we were. And I’m not tooting my horn, I’m not saying I’m great, I’m not an egomaniac person and it was from the production people, from the people in the booth. The people in the truck that you never see, looking at screens who have to work with people all the time in TV, when they’re telling you ‘you made our job a lot easier,’ ‘you’re the one part we didn’t have to worry about.’ You’re the one thing, you know, with all the stuff going on (with) promotion and you know a live event and the screens and the music and the, you know, lights, everything, when they go, ‘Jimmy, we don’t worry about you, you’re the one thing we don’t worry about, we go Jimmy do your thing and you’re going to do it and we don’t have to worry about it.’ No, I never did it, question myself, because not only did the fans appreciate what we did but the people who actually make the show work and they’re awesome at Bellator, the people who actually make the show work really appreciated what we did and never hesitated to let me know that and that, that I’ll take me with me if I never work in TV again. You know what I mean?”

“As far as the production value of Bellator, they have great people working for them. They have great people doing the show themselves — great editor, great video people, and they work really, really hard. And as far as production value goes, I thought 2010 they were outstanding. They made up some changes in 2011, I’m not speaking as to the future, I’m saying in 2010 their production value, what you saw on your TV, was really, really extraordinary and they deserve a lot of credit for putting that together. The production people are outstanding at Bellator and it’s not an easy thing to do week-after-week. I was gone doing Bellator Tuesday through Friday every single week. I get on a plane Tuesday morning, I fly out Friday morning and, you know, doing that every week and getting on that grind and, you know, I mean multiply the mistakes you can make in a show times once a week times 22 weeks and the fat that they were spot on production-wise every week is a real credit to those people. It’s not an easy thing to do.”

During the interview, he was asked to give his thoughts on Bellator’s tournament format and on Cole Konrad winning last season’s Heavyweight tournament:

“Well, the thing is that the tournament format of Bellator, the tournament format of these two guys fight, this guy moves on really ties the hands of the show promotionally. Meaning, if somebody wins they move on. The whole concept Bellator is that it’s impartial and that it’s fair and that the winner moves on, the loser doesn’t and that’s it. We’re not playing favorites in terms of giving guys easy fights. It’s a tournament, so the guys that moves on is the guy who wins and that’s it. But because of that, it’s not like, this person had a boring fight, let’s give them a few undercards and build them up. It’s, hey, if you win, you move on, so how you win, you know promotionally, really isn’t that important. It doesn’t, you don’t have to have exciting fights or we’ll relegate you to the undercard. Hey, if you win, you win and you move on, so you kind of tie your hands when it comes to stuff like that promotionally where people say, oh, that’s a boring fight, but he won and he moves on. You know what I mean? It’s the double-edged sword of having a tournament format where the winner moves on and the loser doesn’t, you know, is somebody might win in an ugly win, but hey a win’s a win and they move on.

“So in the case of the Heavyweight tournament, you know heavyweight fights can be boring anyway. You know they tend to be the ones where if two guys are out of shape, nothing’s worse than a bad heavyweight fight, let me put it that way. You know what I mean, like a bad heavyweight fight is really, really bad. We saw that with, you know, Mirko Cro Cop vs. Frank Mir, we’ve seen some really bad ones and when they’re bad, they’re God-awful bad, but somebody wins and somebody moves on and that fighter keeps going. So, yeah, it’s hard to deal with when you have a weight class that isn’t, I think, doesn’t inherently have, you know… it has potential to be boring to lead to obviously a bad tournament and that’s what some people thought.”

Topics: Bellator, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 12 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

12 Responses to “Jimmy Smith: I’m 90% sure that I won’t be back with Bellator”

  1. Fightlinker says:

    The fighter Neil Grove??


  2. 45 Huddle says:

    1) Heavyweight fighting in either MMa or Boxing is either super exciting or extremely boring. It is rare to see the middle ground.

    2) The Bellator were below average in terms of overall commentating in sports. They were far above average for MMA and easily better then the Showtime team.

    3) He is right about how the tournament format can hurt a promotion. There is no equation to matchmaking. It’s an art form that has to walk a tight rope.

    4) Bellator basically let him go because of money reasons. That is what happened if you read between the lines. They can’t afford him anymore so they low ball him so badly that he either walks or they get him on the cheap. XM Radio recently used the same tactic on Bubba The Love Sponge. And guess what? XM is hurting for money. The same thing was done at the old TechTV with a lot of their on air personalities. They too were hurting for money. This is not a good sign for Bellator. There are rumors that they promised investors PPV by now in order to turn a profit. They have no chance with no fights anybody wants to see and Strikeforce getting much of their press in 2011.

    Should be an interesting year. Bellator is hurting. So is DREAM. Strikeforce is trying to take a stand!! Good stuff….

  3. Jason says:

    Problem is that they’re not that good, it’s that there are so many bad commentators out there. When a guy (i.e. Sean Wheelock) keeps referring to Brazilian jiu jitsu as “bjj” during the broadcast I want to shut of the volume off. Jimmy Smith, although being a pro-fighter has miscalled some techniques.

  4. edub says:

    The question is what will it take for commentating to take the leap in MMA. I don’t really like listening to anybody anymore. I can tolerate Rogan and Goldy just because I’ve watched them for so long, but even they’re pretty bad. When I got into MMA in 04-05 I remember calling Rogan retarted at least 100 times. We used to have a fun hearing Rogan call out something, and the complete opposite happening right after. EX: “And blah blah has it locked up tight this is gonna be all over” and a half second later the guy who had it locked up is getting smashed in the face. Goldy is in the league of his own once referring to Travis Lutter as the “Michael Jordan of Brazilian JJ”.

    I can listen to Bas in spurts, but he hasn’t been commentating much lately. I hate Rice in both commentating, and anchoring on inside MMA. Quadros isn’t any good. Mauro Ranallo is knowledgeable, but can’t ever take a back seat to anyone in a broadcast which makes him seem full of himself and really makes you want to punch him in the face. Shamrock sux. Miletich is overrated. Trigg is a hype man for whatever promotion he’s calling. Schiavello is the same, and uber annoying. Mir over analyzes everything. Bonnar is ok (his ninja kick off the cage call was pretty good). Florian is OK.

    I guess what I’m left with is silence.

    Maybe JR could make a comeback, and move to MMA.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Past fighters are a good start. The problem is that guys currently retired fought in their primes when the sport was very different. The guys of today…. Who compete in a better example of what MMA will be in the future…. Are the guys to do the best job.

      Combine that with a good Goldie type of guy and things will be fine.

      And Rogan has many faults but his ability to simplify grappling techniques so anybody can understand them is one of the most underrated things about the UFC.

      • edub says:

        “And Rogan has many faults but his ability to simplify grappling techniques so anybody can understand them is one of the most underrated things about the UFC.”

        Now that I can definitely agree with.

        • IceMuncher says:

          Amen. When you think about it, Joe Rogan is probably responsible for teaching millions of fans everything they currently know when it comes to the ground game.

    • A. Taveras says:

      Goldy is in the league of his own once referring to Travis Lutter as the “Michael Jordan of Brazilian JJ”.

      Not a single UFC event occurs where we don’t bring this up at my place.

  5. Chuck says:

    Hey, ya’ll should just be glad that Gus Johnson is back into whatever College Football rock he was under.

    Thank GOD for Showtime for kicking him to the curb for their MMA and Boxing shows.

    Personally I always thought the Bellator guys were pretty damn good. They were really quite average when it comes to sports commentating, but in the realm of MMA they were probably second or third best behind Joe Rogan.

    Mike Goldberg you can swear is nothing but sound bytes. Really, why have Goldberg go to any of the shows? It would be the same thing if Zuffa got a replay machine and just pressed it for when Goldberg does “And HERE WE GO!!!” and the very few other things he says. Just have Joe Rogan by himself, and have him hit the buttons on the replay machine when he needs Goldberg to say his usually stuff.

    When it comes to combat sports Barry Tompkins is definitely, bar none, the absolute best out there. He does other sports too. He does boxing on Fox Sports whenever they decide to do shows. Larry Merchant is up there too.

    • edub says:

      Gotta completely disagree about Merchant. I think he’s past his prime, and HBO should’ve let him “retire” a while ago. It’s not like Kellerman is the answer though.

      • Chuck says:

        I always like Kellerman. He was great when he was on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights years ago. The best was when he would completely TRASH on Paul Spadafora. He just had a huge disdain for Spadafora for some reason. But the jokes of Kellerman. Spadafora is STILL undefeated with just one draw (against Angel Manfredy). Record being 45-0-1 19 kos. But he doesn’t fight top guys anymore.

        Another boxing commentator that actually doesn’t suck? Curt Menefee. He’s another football guy that Showtime got to do the ShoBox telecasts. And as I said, he’s not bad. Much better than Gus Johnson.


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