Contender Series’s Devonte Smith: Conquer All Guaranteed Everything
Sitting on the couch at home watching PRIDE with his brother, 14-year-old Devonte Smith (7-1) decided he wanted to be a fighter. Seeing Quinton “Rampage” Jackson infamously slam Ricardo Arona at PRIDE Critical Countdown 2004 had the Ohioan’s blood pumping. Smith thought it looked easy, and fun, and quite frankly like something he could see himself doing in the future.
Once in high school, Smith joined the wrestling team. He was always the first to let his teammates know he was going to be a fighter someday. His mindset and aspirations coined him the nickname “Johnny Cage”. CAGE is an acronym for “Conquer All Guaranteed Everything”.
“Throughout high school there were people who actually thought my name was Johnny or Johnny Cage,” laughed Smith, in an interview with MMA Today. “It was very rare that people called me Devonte.”
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As soon as he turned 18 years of age, Smith took his first fight. One taste of competitive face-punching and Smith was hooked. Making the ascend from the amateur level in 2015, Smith won his first four pro bouts. In his fifth pro fight, Smith faced off against now-UFC veteran John Gunter. The two fighters put on an absolute brawl, with Smith ultimately losing by TKO. It was devastating at the time, but Smith used the experience to evolve in the long run.
“After I took that loss, I really got to see who was with me,” said Smith. “Who was a friend and who was an enemy. Who was just riding the coattails. Coaches — I started seeing them fade away. I really got to see what happens when you lose. That loss was a loss, but it was also a lesson learned. I hate losing. It just eats at my soul. And that’s why I work so hard.”
Following the loss, Smith went through a bit of a dark period, feeling frustrated with himself. He was obsessed. He needed to get back on track. Quite frankly, he required a total change. He left his old gym behind and ridded the Johnny Cage nickname. It was at this time that he coined the nickname “King Cage”.
“I went through kind of a depression,” continued Smith. “I was still working, but even my mom seen I had murder on my mind, because I had to fight again. You could say I went through a spiritual awakening, and I wanted to leave the past in the past, so I left that gym. I wanted to leave that nickname in the past. I present myself as a king and I see myself as a king. That’s what I feel. That’s what I believe.”
Picking up three additional wins since his loss to Gunther in 2017, Smith has been on a tear. This past March, Smith defeated UFC veteran Justin Edwards via first round knockout. The quick finish not only impressed the fans in attendance, but the UFC brass as well. The powers that be offered Smith a spot on the hit UFC Fight Pass original series, Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.
This Tuesday night, Smith will face off against CFFC champion Joseph Lowry (8-0) in the season finale’s co-main event. Understatedly, Lowry is a formidable opponent. This past June, Lowry was featured on an episode of the YouTube series Dana White: Lookin’ For a Fight, defeating Zach Fears to the delight of the UFC president.
Smith believes Lowry will be a tough test, but one he’ll pass with flying colors.
“I have a lot of respect for him, but with fights there ain’t no such thing as respect,” said Smith. “He hasn’t really gone against anybody of my caliber. In a lot of ways, I feel that my competition and teammates are better competition than him. Not to underestimate him in any way. It only takes one punch. I’ve been wanting this since I was 14. It’s taken me ten years to get this. I’m not going to let any man take this from me. I’m working too hard to let a chance like this slip by.”
It’s no secret that UFC President Dana White loves exciting fights and devastating finishes. If Smith puts on such type of performance, the UFC don will offer him a promotional contract. Smith believes his fighting style is right in the UFC president’s wheelhouse.
“I knock everybody out and I’m not even trying,” said Smith. “No matter home many times you hit me, my main goal is always going to be for me to hit you many more times. My main goal is to hit you so much harder. When I hit people they don’t get up, and I don’t stop until the referee stops me. It’s a fight. If you like violence and aggression, I’m your guy.”
“I want to give a big shoutout to Ray at SAS Training out of Cleveland, Ohio. When I’m not out here in Denver, he works me hard. He’s my strength and conditioning coach. I want to thank my teammates Shawn Rall, Marcus Crawford, Marc Montoya, and pretty much all of my teammates at Factory X. There’s just too many to name! I want to thank my mom. She’s been a big help. She’s my nutrition. I want to thank my three sponsors: Beast Coast Living, Questrition, and TerpHouse. Also, a big shoutout to Iridium for holding their word and doing what they said they were going to do. “- King Cage