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Shad Smith: MMA Trailblazer

Shad Smith went from prisoner to head turner as the first openly gay fighter.

Before any of that, Smith had plenty of run-ins with the law. Of his four stints behind bars, he was sentenced to four years in 1995 for carjacking. It was his longest time in jail. Upon his release, friend Danny Caldwell had arranged a fight for him.

“I’d never been in any cage fights or anything,” said Smith to the New York Times. “Not even as a spectator, much less as a competitor. They said they’d give me 800 bucks to show up and double that if I won.”

Smith took part in Felony Fights, which consisted mostly of ex-convicts. Before he went to jail, Smith had fought out of KOTC.

Smith opened up about his sexuality years ago, but it wasn’t easy.

“I was petrified, because I didn’t want anyone to find out,” said Smith. “I would try to be the toughest person around. That way, no one would suspect, no one would ever say it, no one would think it.”

Last year, Smith went 1-2 with the losses coming from BAMMA. He makes his Bellator debut today, against Aaron Miller on the preliminary card of Bellator 92. It streams live on