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Cub Swanson says USADA played big part in re-signing with UFC, has hard time believing tainted supplement ‘excuses’

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Things didn’t play out as planned when Cub Swanson rolled the dice last December and fought Brian Ortega at UFC Fresno on the last fight of his UFC contract. Swanson suffered a second-round submission loss to Ortega, saw his four-fight win streak snapped, and lost significant leverage for his trip to the negotiating table opposite UFC officials.

Ultimately, Swanson did re-sign with the promotion. He competed against Frankie Edgar in April on the first fight of a new deal that Swanson revealed Monday on The MMA Hour still gave him an uptick in pay. But the increase in salary wasn’t the main reason Swanson decided to return to the Octagon. Swanson explained that he received several lucrative offers from other promotions as well, but one big factor helped to sway him back to the UFC: The organization’s commitment to year-round, random drug testing with USADA.

“I feel like when it was all said and done, we were able to see eye-to-eye [financially],” Swanson said Monday on The MMA Hour. “It was more than they were initially offering me. I did get some huge offers, but the companies weren’t as stable and things like that, and it was really making me really think hard. But one of the biggest things is, I’m all for USADA.

“I spent a long time fighting for the company without the major drug testing, and I feel like I wasn’t a big fan of that, so I just was thinking in my head, ‘Do I really want to be fighting guys who I know are just cheating?’ And I’m not one to do that, so I was happy to sign back with the UFC and be in a clean sport.”

Swanson, 34, will look to snap a two-fight losing streak this weekend when he meets fellow featherweight contender Renato Moicano on August 4 at UFC 227.

A 14-year veteran of the fight game, Swanson expressed glowing praise of the job USADA has done in helping to clean up the UFC. While some athletes such as Junior dos Santos and Yoel Romero have professed frustration in the way USADA handled their cases — both are among the many fighters who have spent time on the shelf for failed drug tests that turned out to be the result of tainted supplements — Swanson said he has noticed a sizable change in the sport since USADA’s program began in 2015. Without naming names, Swanson also indicated that he doubts many of the “excuses” being made by his peers.

“I don’t think they’re catching everybody. I think there are some people who are getting around it, but for the most part, they are catching people,” Swanson said of USADA. “A lot of the people who are getting caught, everyone’s making excuses. Maybe a handful of those people are legitimate, but I doubt it.

“I have a hard time believing a lot of those [tainted supplement excuses]. I mean, you’re supposed to be on top of all that stuff. With our coach Sam (Calavitta), everything that we take, he’s putting a stamp of approval on it, and if we were to test positive, he’s basically putting our whole team — like, ‘Hey, we all take this stuff. We give it to USADA, this is what we’re taking. Feel free.’ And I feel very confident every time they test me. I’m like, yeah, come on, test me, I’m good, I’m clean.”

Swanson said that his strength and conditioning at the The Treigning Lab in southern California, Sam Calavitta, has a working relationship with UFC executive Jeff Novitzky. He said Calavitta cross-checks with Novitzky every supplement that he gives the team — a team which includes UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw.

Swanson also admitted that he didn’t realize how significant the PED problem was in MMA until his career blossomed past its humble beginnings.

“I mean, I think it was bad,” Swanson said. “I was pretty ignorant to it all through my WEC days because I came from a smaller gym, I believe. I think when you get to, like, the super-gyms, there are more people who are helping each other out and so there’s more of a chance that you get to learn about that kind of stuff. I didn’t learn about any of that kind of stuff until later in my career, and really finding out like, wow, okay.

“And there’s a difference between somebody taking the smallest amount to recover, and then a combination of like 10 things to make them just an animal, enough to change the structure of your face. You know what I mean? The size of your head. So there’s a difference between taking a little bit to recover and then making you just like a robot, and I feel bad for them in the long run, because I think they’ll have a lot of problems down the road.

“I think that when they talk about concussions and things like that, I feel like a lot of people don’t take into consideration that it’s the concussions mixed with the steroids, and what that might do to the brain,” Swanson added.