Cub Swanson kept his hot streak alive on Saturday night, defeating Artem Lobov in a one-sided decision in the main event of UFC Fight Night 108 to extend his four-fight winning streak in the UFC featherweight division.
Swanson then called for a shot against the winner of UFC 212’s title unification bout between Jose Aldo and Max Holloway, and afterward, Swanson admitted that his championship aspirations were a major reason why he accepted such a high-risk, low-reward fight against an unranked opponent like Lobov.
“It was an opportunity to do five fives and the extra media,“ Swanson told reporters in Nashville after UFC Fight Night 108. “I really did all the media and just attacked it and had a positive mindset and embraced it, and it was mental training for the title fight. That’s how I took it. I knew that Artem was no slouch and that he was going to come hard, but I knew that I’m just more well-rounded and more of a veteran, and that I was able to do all the media, do all the things and train for five fives, and just mentally prep myself for a title fight.”
Swanson’s victory over Lobov, while far from the most impressive feat he has accomplished over his run, was still a worthy performance that kept Swanson active in a highly competitive 145-pound class. Swanson now turns his gaze toward June 3, as regardless of who emerges from UFC 212 as the division’s champion, both Aldo and Holloway present equal opportunities at redemption for Swanson.
“I’ve lost to both those guys, so they both equally sting,” Swanson said. “In my whole career, I’ve never fought for a belt, so that’s something that I would like to do, or at least have the opportunity to do.
“For the division, I think it’s exciting for Holloway to win, and just kinda build more buzz. But I think my chances of fighting for a title, it’s more likely if Aldo wins, because then there’s not going to be a rematch (between Aldo and Holloway), things like that. So I see both sides.”
Though he has fallen to both men, Swanson’s defeats at the hands of Aldo and Holloway are two wholly separate beasts.
Swanson suffered a brutal eight-second knockout against Aldo all the way back in 2009, before Aldo was even crowned WEC featherweight champion. Both men have grown significantly in the eight years since, and Swanson is confident things would end differently against Aldo a second time around.
“I think it’d be a great fight,” Swanson said. “I’ve studied him for a long time. I know what he’s good at, I know what I’m good at, and I just know that I can make any fight a war and make it my fight, so I think it’d be a good match-up. I’m excited to do it again. I took a lot of lessons away from that fight, some that have molded me into who I am. All my losses, really, but that one in particular, and I’d like to get it back.”
By contrast, Swanson’s loss to Holloway was much more recent. In fact, the third-round submission loss he suffered to Holloway actually stands as the last setback Swanson was dealt before turning his momentum around and embarking on the stellar four-fight run Swanson currently enjoys.
“It was all mental in the Holloway fight,” Swanson said. “It was funny because my whole career, I’ve been afraid of being nervous. I’m like, ‘when do you get to a point where you’re not nervous anymore?’ And I realized in the Frankie (Edgar) fight and the Holloway fight, I went in there with zero nerves and I got beat up both fights. That fear, it heightens your senses.
“It makes you aware, and it makes you fight on a different level. And that can turn into an actual fear that shuts you down, or you can turn it into excitement that it’s going to be the greatest night of your life, and that’s what I’ve been able to do. I’ve been able to say, ‘yeah, that’s pressure, cool, let’s do it.’ Rather than, ‘man, I don’t want to lose. I don’t want to be embarrassed on TV,’ or anything like that. It’ all mental. So I’ve been able to conquer that and every fight has been a progression.”
Nonetheless, Swanson is not alone in his title hopes.
Mexican standout Yair Rodriguez is slated to fight Frankie Edgar next month at UFC 211, and a win over Edgar would surely thrust Rodriguez into the title picture. But regardless, Swanson knows that he has time, and with his first child due to be born in August, the 33-year-old veteran is looking at a long break before the next time he returns to the cage.
“I’m definitely going to take some time off, but I’m going to be training the whole time,” Swanson said. “I’ve got good people around. I enjoy training at this point in my career. I feel like I’m a lot smarter at it, I enjoy pushing myself, so I’ll be training. But realistically, fighting, probably not until late December or early next year.”