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How Jacob Smith’s dreams to fight Rodtang came true

March 2020 — The World came to an abrupt halt as the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Retail closed, travel paused and sporting events came to a crushing stop. One particular sportsperson that felt the effects of the pandemic was Birkenhead’s Jacob Smith.

Smith had signed with ONE Championship just months prior and was only two weeks away from making his debut. At the time, he was scheduled to face Superlek Kiatmoo9. A fight, he says, “would be a harder fight than Rodtang”.

ONE: “Heart of Heroes” was scheduled to take place on March 20, 2020. This was the first event to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Losing such a big opportunity hit the Birkenhead Muay Thai fighter hard.

The weeks following the cancellation, Smith had let his emotions get the better of him and uncharacteristically skipped training sessions. After realising he’d let himself gain weight and hit the scales at 72.5kg, Smith pulled himself together and began a ruthless training regime to get himself back on track and become the best version of himself.

Fast forward to August 2020, the Fight Record team visited Jacob and his family at their home to film an exclusive documentary. The short film gave an insight into Jacob’s background and life growing up in the north end of Birkenhead. After sharing his personal background and family moments at his home, we moved on to the gym to witness the brutal training sessions he has become renowned for.

After endless rounds of pad work, tyre flips, muscle-ups and much more savage strength training, we sat down to discuss fight business. During the interview at his gym, Smith opened up about being approached by ONE Championship. When questioned on the one fight he would like the most, he did not hesitate in responding; “Rodtang”.

Just a few months later, Jacob Smith’s wishes came true. ONE Championship got in touch and offered the fight against Rodtang, which was scheduled for the mega ONE on TNT event in April 2021. However, in another stroke of unfortunate luck, COVID ruined yet another huge opportunity for Smith. Travel restrictions meant the Brit was unable to enter Singapore direct from the UK and the bout was cancelled.

Smith would later be scheduled for a domestic UK #1 spot bout at SuperShowDown in July, but this time COVID hit closer to home and he was unable to compete once again. After his recovery, Jacob Smith would go on to officially join the team at Bad Company. Training under the tutelage of Andy Howson and Muay Thai megastar Liam Harrison, Smith began adding new weaponry to his arsenal.

This was shown when he finally made his long-awaited return to the ring in March 2022. Coming up against tough Spanish opponent Ricardo Alvarez, Smith looked sharper than he ever has on his way to capturing the WMO Muaythai International title.

And destiny came calling once again. Jacob Smith was approached by ONE Championship, this time offering the biggest contract to date; a place in the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai Grand Prix. Of course, his first fight will be against none other than Rodtang Jitmuangnon.

It will be easy for those unfamiliar with Smith to dismiss his chances against Rodtang. After all, he is the ONE debutant facing the current champion. But those closest to Smith, those that see his gruelling efforts in the gym day-in-day-out, those are the ones who truly believe in him and his ability to shock the World.

Jacob’s training partner and ONE Championship fighter, Liam Harrison, has told numerous sources he believes Rodtang is in for a rough night against the Birkenhead fighter. Having witnessed his training and sparred together on a daily basis, the Hitman is in a better position than anyone to assess the match-up.

Whatever happens on May 20, you can be sure Jacob Smith will have not only the whole of Birkenhead, but also the rest of the UK behind him when he takes on the Ironman, Rodtang Jitmuangnon, in the first round of the ONE Flyweight Muay Thai Grand Prix at ONE 157.

Watch ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs Jimmy Vienot live on Friday, May 20. The lead card is scheduled to kick-off at 4.30pm SGT (Singapore) / 10.30am BST (British Summer Time).

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