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“I haven’t been given anything,” Crute said. “I’ve been taking it, so I’m going to take this opportunity, and I’m going to shove it down his throat for thinking he can get away with giving it to me.”

The Australian understands the challenge in front of him as comprehensively as he does the opportunity. Smith’s vast experience could fairly lead one to assume he’s much older than his actual 32 years of age, and it was only five fights ago when he challenged Jon Jones for the light heavyweight belt.

In that fight, Jones landed an illegal knee on Smith, but instead of letting the fight end there and inheriting the title, Smith pressed on and eventually lost a decision. That choice to continue earned the Nebraskan a lot of regard among his peers, including Crute.

WATCH UFC 261 EMBEDDED: Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 

“I love what he’s done in the sport,” Crute said. “He’s proven time and time again that the ‘Lionheart’ nickname sticks, and it suits him. I got nothing but respect for the man.”

That respect manifested itself in the training room, and Crute seems like he is chomping at the bit to get to fight night.

He’s keen to not allow himself to get overeager, though. Crute is well-educated in the different dangers Smith presents, as the 18 knockouts and 13 submissions on his record would suggest.


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