Cub Swanson better get used to watching other fighters fight. With a broken hand yet to heal and a baby on the way in August, the leading UFC featherweight contender isn’t looking to set foot in the Octagon again until December and, because of this, is currently learning the importance of patience.
For a man on the cusp of a UFC title shot – that thing that has eluded him for much of his 13-year professional career – this waiting around may prove easier said than done. Indeed, it was only last weekend Swanson sat and watched Max Holloway have a breakout win over Jose Aldo and become undisputed UFC featherweight champion in the process. Swanson, a former opponent of both, couldn’t help but think back to the night in April 2015 when he flattered to deceive in a disappointing submission loss to Holloway. It’s a loss, he says, he is desperate to avenge.
“When I studied him on tape and when I fought him, he was a better version than what I’d seen,” Cub tells Fighters Only. “When we fought, he knows he didn’t get the best version of me. As soon as that fight started, the people who know me knew it wasn’t me in there. That really hurt to hear people close to me say that.
“It burns. But it’s not like he was a slouch. He’s the champ now. I’d like to get that one again and prove I am better than that. I believe I am better than him.”
Thirty-three-year-old Swanson, due to circumstances beyond his control, must now wait for his chance, something he has grown accustomed to doing of late. In fact, at least a couple of times he has felt on the brink of a title shot only to see it fall by the wayside and someone else get the nod instead.
Some have even accused Swanson, 25-7, of treading water, a consequence of taking a fight against unranked Artem Lobov in April. It was, for all intents and purposes, a no-win situation for the Californian. Win and he was expected to do so. Lose, however, and everything he’d accomplished, including a three-fight win-streak, would have crumbled before his very eyes.
“The UFC wanted me to take that fight because they needed a main event,” he explains. “They thought Artem had a big following and they asked me to take the fight. I don’t turn down fights. I took the Artem fight and took a lot of crap for it. They were saying, ‘Why would you take this fight?’ I was asked that question a million times.
“I did everything I needed to do. I knew he was going to be tough and we had a great fight. But still people think it was a close fight. I broke my hand in the second round and actually thought I broke my other hand. I still broke the record for significant strikes in a featherweight fight and that’s with having two hurt hands. I landed 75 percent of what I threw. I went out there and dominated. I usually start slow and I think he did take the first round; I was trying to feel him out because he’s so awkward. But after that I just cruised through the rounds.”
Swanson’s broken hand was his price to pay for taking the fight. And that, along with the imminent arrival of his firstborn, have momentarily put the brakes on his career. But, for someone who has waged back-to-back wars, and seemingly never takes the easy route, a layoff could be just what the doctor ordered and just what a warrior needs.
“My plan was to fight in December,” he says, “and that’s the soonest I was going to fight. Right now I’m just barely starting to train because I’m still nursing a broken hand. They just gave me the okay to start doing things, but I won’t hit anything for another month.
“The UFC know my situation. I’m going to give myself a few months, but I’ll be training and looking to get back in action.”
When Cub Swanson says “get back in action”, he means it. We know this, just as Max Holloway, the new UFC featherweight king, knows this.