The matchup serves as a pivotal crossroads for Swanson, a longtime 145-pound standout who has dropped back-to-back fights against Brian Ortega and Frankie Edgar. At 34 years old, Swanson could find himself on the outside of contention looking in if he drops a third straight bout at UFC 227. But after competing at the highest levels of the game for over 11 years in the WEC and UFC without securing an ever-elusive title shot, Swanson’s aim for the last stretch of his career is simple.
He simply wants to enjoy his remaining time left in the game with the biggest fights possible, and kick-starting himself against a No. 10 ranked foe like Moicano offers a good first step towards attaining those goals.
“I had a lot of guys calling me out and he was the top-ranked one, and so that was the fight I wanted,” Swanson explained Monday on The MMA Hour. “I think it’s a good fight, and a win over him I think just gets me another big fight. I’m not really too worried about a belt right now. I just want big fights and fun fights at this point in my career.
“If I never fought for the belt, it wouldn’t bother me,” Swanson added. “That whole song and dance gets tiring, and it’s a lot of playing favorites. I’ve just had it dangled in front of me so many times, I’m just like, whatever, man. Just give me the big fights and pay me to show up and let me do my thing, and I’ll go home and hang out with my family and do my thing.”
In Moicano, Swanson faces a well-rounded 29-year-old who has quietly positioned himself as a viable contender in the featherweight division. The Brazilian has racked up an impressive 4-1 record in the UFC that includes a decision victory over Jeremy Stephens. The only person to beat Moicano thus far in his career is Ortega, however Swanson is confident he understands the blueprint needed to get the job done on Saturday.
“I think he does a good job at fighting with his length, and he’s pretty quick on his feet and he’s got long range, so he uses that very well,” Swanson said. “He does get caught up sometimes trying to brawl, but for the most part, he’ll stick and move and run and leg kick and kinda play the game. And he does it pretty well, and he’s done it to some high-level guys, so I’ve got to give him props on that.
“I think I definitely need to check his kicks. I’ve got to cut him off, but I’m not going to be chasing him or anything like that. I think a lot of people have messed up doing that. I think I’ll find ways to get him to come to the middle and fight me in the middle.”
Ahead of UFC 227, Swanson is spending his time training in Orange County at The Treigning Lab, the gym he has called home for most of 2018.
A longtime member of Albuquerque’s JacksonWink squad, Swanson made the move to The Treigning Lab partly because it presented an opportunity to train closer to home, but also because Swanson felt like he needed to “start a new chapter” in his career. With sparring partners like UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, plus coaches like Duane Ludwig and strength and conditioning guru Sam Calavitta, Swanson said he has felt his game become more well-rounded as a result of the change of scenery.
Swanson added that for a long time back injuries prevented him from focusing on improving his grappling or wrestling, but now, with the help of the coaches at The Treigning Lab, he has discovered new ways to shore up his weaknesses despite his back issues.
“I just felt like I needed a change for some growth,” Swanson said. “I love Jackson’s, everybody there is family to me and they know that, and I didn’t leave on bad terms or anything. They kinda understood my situation. I’ve been going out there for eight, nine years, and I felt like I needed to start a new chapter in my career, and I honestly feel like I’ll end my career here at this facility and with Sam, especially going into my mid- and then late-thirties.
“I’m 34 now. I felt like I really needed to be as smart as possible with how I’m treating my body and how I’m performing every day. So, I really felt like Sam was my best option, our strength and conditioning coach, and I just felt like if I want to have longevity in this sport, I need to treat my body right when it comes to weight cutting, when it comes to strength training, and making sure that I’m good.”
For now, with the birth of his second child looming, Swanson understands the importance of what Saturday night could mean. A third straight loss would be a devastating hit to his hopes of big fights in the featherweight division, and Swanson is well aware that the UFC could be using him as an opportunity to boost Moicano’s name.
“I mean, that’s always the point. That’s what happened with Doo Ho Choi, and that’s how matchmaking works,” Swanson admitted. “You go, ‘Hey, this guy’s on a roll, he’s up-and-coming. Let’s test him against this person.’ I know the role I’m in right now. Coming off of a couple losses, you get to be the gatekeeper role, so that’s fine. I’m just not going to let anybody build their name off of me.”