This Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 108 card in Nashville might look a little perplexing at the top, with surging veteran Cub Swanson taking on Artem Lobov. Swanson is coming off what many consider the Fight of the Year of 2016, a career-defining victory over Doo Ho Choi at UFC 206 to make it three wins in a row.
In the eyes of many, Lobov, a fighter with a near .500 record for this career, feels like a random next step. And it’s easy to see the logic in that.
Just a little over a year ago, the The Ultimate Fighter 22 runner-up Lobov was facing a must-win situation to retain his spot in the UFC against Chris Avila. He prevailed with a decision that night to snap a two-fight losing steak, and has since backed it up with a victory over Teruto Ishihara in Belfast, Northern Ireland back in November.
Swanson isn’t as perplexed as others on the idea of facing Lobov. He says there’s plenty of motivation to put on a good show in Tennessee.
“To me it’s just about going out and having a great performance,” he said during an appearance on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “It’s a chance for me to top my last performance. I know he’s tough. He’s a completely different style than my last fight, though he’s still a stand up guy. So I think it’s a chance for me to bring out the best of myself. I got to train for five [five minute rounds], so that made me push it beyond my last camp, and so basically I’m going to go out there and show the best version of myself, just try to show that I’m on another level.”
One of the lines of thinking is that Lobov has been expedited into a main event against a fighter like Swanson because he trains with Irish firebrand Conor McGregor at SGB in Dublin. Swanson doesn’t necessarily disagree with this.
He says Lobov is talented, but that the associations to McGregor carry false import.
“I don’t believe that talent-wise he shouldn’t be in the UFC,” he said. “I feel like with his record and things like that there are so many more deserving people to be in the UFC. So somebody else in that situation, if it wouldn’t have been for Conor, he would have had to stream together a lot more wins and do a lot more things. So I think people are pissed off about that. I particularly don’t like him for that.
“When you treat your career early on really crappy, you can’t expect to be in a good position. That’s just the way pro fighting is. So, I mean, I don’t think it’s a lack of skill set. I just think it was a lack of taking care of his record and doing all the things at the right time.”
Asked if there was any one thing that impresses him about Lobov (13-12-1), the 33-year old Swanson said he’s a tough out — and he’s been looking better with each fight.
“He’s showed, if you go back and look at his record, he’s durable,” he said. “That’s one thing. He’s fought a lot of tough guys, different weight classes, so that was probably the reason he has a lot of losses. But then later in his career he gets with a good camp, a good training partners, so I’m expecting to see — if you look at every fight he’s had in the UFC, he’s looked better. So I’m expecting to see a better version than we’ve ever seen of him. That’s what motivated me to train so hard.”
The 30-year old Lobov was 4-4-1 in his previous nine bouts heading into his stint on TUF. He faced fighters like former UFC fighter Andre Winner and Mike Wilkinson early on his career. One of the contentions with Lobov is he said he tends to fight up to his competition, and Swanson will be by far the most established name he’s ever faced. In Lobov’s last fight against the veteran Ishihara, Lobov was able to win a decision against a guy many expected to beat him.
As for whether or not he expects Lobov to fight up to his level on Saturday, Swanson said whether he does or not, that’s what he’s preparing for.
“That’s what I’m expecting,” Swanson said. “But at the same time I think that Ishihara overlooked him and I think the hype of the fight got to him. He looked uncomfortable in there. He never looked settled in. So I don’t think that he fought to his full potential.”
One thing that Swanson said he’s heard a lot of since agreeing to fight Lobov is that people hope he shuts the outspoken Russian fighter up. Swanson himself admits he doesn’t like Lobov, and he explained why on show.
“Because he’s trying to be somebody, like a lot of these young guys are trying to be somebody that they’re not,” he said. “And he’s trying to talk crap. You know, he called me a b*tch and he said I had no balls. I feel like those two things aren’t true statements. If feel like if you’re going to call me out on something, call me out on something that’s true, but those aren’t true. To me it’s just ridiculous, and I’d like to make an example out of him.”