Waynesboro MMA fighter looking to go pro, with special inspiration

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WHSV) — Sydney Smith is a fighter at heart.

When she steps in the mixed martial arts cage, she becomes Sydney "Sundance" Smith.

"I used to call my dad Sundance," Smith said.

Since a young age, Smith has bonded with her father, Richard Smith, through sports.

"Softball, baseball, football, basketball," Smith said. "He was always there."

The one sport he never got to see her in, though, is mixed martial arts.

"He got sick when I was a senior in high school," Smith said. "And then it just progressively got worse."

In 2012, Richard Smith passed away from cancer.

"So I ended up buying my own punching bag and just kind of getting out some of those excess emotions," Smith said.

Keeping her bond with her dad alive, today, Sydney is an amateur MMA fighter.

"I've always been his little rambunctious child," Smith said.

This coming weekend, Smith will compete in the Cowboy Fight Series in Annandale, Virginia, where she'll have the opportunity to fight in front of pro scouts. But like she does with every competition, she'll honor her father's memory.

"I wear my dad's cowboy hat," Smith said. "It's just a black straw hat, but I wear it to every fight, I walk out in it, I weigh in it. It's just kind of my way of carrying him with me and just feeling a piece of him before I go in there. It might be something simple, but to me, it means the world."

A world where her dad is with her at every fight.

"Sometimes I can almost hear him," Smith said.

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You can tune in to Smith's fight on Saturday. It will be live streamed here.