Local MMA fighter heads to Afghanistan to fight for troops

By Joel Charron

Justin Smethurst has been given an opportunity of a lifetime.

On March 3 the 6’1”, 155 pound, 27-year-old mix martial artist is headed to Afghanistan for a fight as part of the entertainment for the troops overseas. The fight will be in front of British, Canadian and American troops.

Smethurst, who trains out of Maximum Training Center (MTC) in Windsor, said he got the call from REC MMA to participate in the Afghanistan show in the beginning of February.

This isn’t the first time Smethurst was offered to fight in Afghanistan. After fighting for REC MMA in his first professional fight last year, the company asked the slender fighter to take part in their first overseas show last year, however Smethurst declined for personal reasons.

When REC MMA called this time, Smethurst was elated to accept the fight.

Justin Smethurst (right) is confident and excited as he prepares for his fight against Asa Stokes in Afghanistan.

“A guy I train with went the first time and when he came back he said it was the best time of his life and highly recommended that if I get the chance to go next time, I should,” said Smethurst.

Smethurst’s opponent is Asa Stokes (2-0.)

“I think this is a good matchup,” said MTC trainer Rino Belcastro. “If the Justin that we believe in and see and hear shows up (at the fight) I think it will be to his advantage.”

Belcastro said Smethurst possesses a number of qualities that one can’t teach fighters.

“Justin is an extremely hard worker and he’s tough, mentally tough,” he said.

Smethurst admits his first two professional fights haven’t gone his way. He took one fight a week before and the other a day before. However this time, he has known about this fight for a month and has been preparing since day one.

“Physically and mentally, this is the best training camp I’ve had to prepare for a fight,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to train for a fight that you know you’re going to fight for.”

“The enthusiasm level is at an all time high,” said Belcastro.

Along with his opponent, Smethurst will be flying overseas with Canadian comedian Tom Green, the Montreal Alouettes cheerleaders and NHL old-timers.

Belcastro said this type of fight would be much different then most fights Smethurst will take in his career.

“They had to pick a certain group of individuals that are able to work together, and able to know the reason they are going there.  While at the same time able to put on a show,” said Belcastro. “It’s a different experience but it’s an experience Justin will remember for the rest of his life.”

While in Afghanistan Smethurst said they will be touring the area and meeting troops.

“I’m really confident and excited to get over there to showcase my skills for the troops,” said Smethurst. “They sacrifice a lot so I can do what I want to do. I couldn’t see myself in a war in Afghanistan. This is my way of saying thank you.”

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