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Jimmy Smith: ‘Carrot and stick’ behind new wave of UFC fighter analysts

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MMA: Bellator 181-Girtz vs Campos Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is no longer interested in mixed martial arts (MMA) analysts who don’t have any experience inside the Octagon, because who better to break down actual fights than the athletes who need a job understand what takes place inside the cage?

That’s according to former Bellator MMA and UFC mouthpiece Jimmy Smith, who was brought into the fold in late 2017, only to be sent on his way after his contract expired last month. Not because he sucked at his job, but rather because aging fighters need some extra incentive to play ball.

“Very simply it was, ‘you’re great, fantastic, we love everything you did but we’re going with UFC fighters for 2019,’” Smith told The MMA Hour about leaving UFC. “What’s the message that sends to people who are fighting? If you play ball, you’ll get airtime, you might get a desk job. It also gives the UFC another incentive for their fighters and that’s important. From their point of view, it’s kind of another carrot and stick for fighters.”

It’s not unusual for non-fighting analysts to come under fire from combatants inside the cage. That includes longtime color commentator, Joe Rogan, who rubbed talent the wrong way on more than one occasion (samples here and here).

Over the last year or so, several familiar faces began popping up at the broadcast table, as well as the desk at FOX, including Michael Bisping, Paul Felder, Tyron Woodley, and Rashad Evans, just to name a few.

It will be interesting to see who stays and who (else) goes under the new ESPN deal.