Justin “Bushido Kid” Smitley (10-7-1) earned more than just a unanimous decision over Art “King Arthur” Arciniega on Friday night, Jan. 29. The 30-year-old from Modesto, who trains at Oakdale Mixed Martial Arts Academy, battled his former training partner and former teammate Arciniega in front of a sold out Save Mart Center in Fresno for Bellator 148.
“For those who don’t know the history we share, I have been waiting for this moment for almost a decade. Eight years ago we trained together and were teammates. He left because he thought he was bigger than the team and thought he could go onto bigger, better promotions,” the five-foot, eight-inch featherweight Smitley said about the history of Arciniega. “Over the last eight years, he has ducked me and refused to fight me. We had it (the fight) booked on a few other occasions, but he always found a way out of it. This time Bellator told him either he fights me or doesn’t fight at all.”
Smitley trained hard at Oakdale MMA for nine intense weeks before the fight. He has been training regularly at Oakdale MMA for nearly 12 years.
“There is no other gym I would want to be a part of. Why leave to go to another gym? We have excellent striking; we have brilliant Jujitsu and wrestlers at Oakdale MMA. For me and my brothers, who fight in UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) this is the best place to train without a doubt.”
Just minutes before the fight, Smitley was surrounded by his family and trainers. This includes his brothers Brad and Michael McDonald, Professor Tom Theofanopoulos and others.
“Before my fights I focus on my breathing and calming my nerves. I am not nervous about the fight or the opponent, it’s more I want to fight to my full potential,” Smitley stated. “I was very confident in my mind that I was going to win.
“I have the best trainers, best fighters surrounding me at the best gym possible. Everybody supported me and that is all I really needed.”
Entering the fight, Smitley was considered the underdog against Arciniega. This didn’t bother Smitley, who built off the underdog role.
“For those who don’t follow me or even knew the history of us, they just assumed I would lose. I was told by several people that even the commentators were siding with him (Arciniega),” Smitley explained. “That changed shortly after the fight began.”
Two minutes into the Friday night fight, Smitley rocked Arciniega with a left hook to his head. The hit did damage to Arciniega but might have done more damage to Smitley’s left hand.
“I hit him with a left hook on his head, but I broke my hand. It would not close to make a fist and I fought the rest of the fight with a broken hand.”
Smitley battled through the remainder of the fight with just the one hand but still managed to deliver vicious kicks and strikes. His dominant performance silenced all his critics and the doubters, as Smitley was awarded a unanimous 30-27 victory.
“It’s a great feeling to win in front of thousands of fans, especially when it is close to home,” he said.
This was Smitley’s Bellator MMA debut and he has not fought in two years. Since his last battle in the octagon, Smitley had his first born son, and has been enjoying the family life.
“When my son was born two years ago, his mom was working graveyard at the time, so I would watch him and took time away from fighting. There is nothing like watching your son grow; it is surreal. But he is getting older so I started to get back into fighting,” he explained.
Smitley knows that you don’t get too far in this business without help. He went on to acknowledge those who helped him out along the way for his return.
“My parents Bob and Kathy McDonald, my brothers Brad and Mikey (Michael) McDonald, Tom and Lori Theofanopoulos, Angel De Anda, Eloy Garza and Rolando Velasco. Each of them have helped me out in so many ways, food, training and support.”
Smitley will allow his hand to heal and will continue to get into prime shape before he returns to the octagon.