The newest edition to the UFC’s 2022 Hall of Fame class was as much of a surprise to Cub Swanson as it was to the rest of the MMA world.
The promotion announced at UFC 273 that Swanson’s iconic brawl with Doo Ho Choi is set to be inducted into the Fight Wing of the UFC’s Hall of Fame later this summer. Swanson memorably defeated Choi in a three-round war of attrition at UFC 206 in 2016.
Swanson, 38, reflected on the honor on Wednesday’s episode of The MMA Hour, admitting that he had “no idea” the news was coming prior to its unveiling on the UFC 273 broadcast.
“It was pretty funny,” Swanson said on The MMA Hour. “My wife Kenda [Perez] was at the fight, she was working the event, so I had all three kids from Thursday to Sunday. And so on Saturday, the community I live in, because there’s a lot of kids, had a little Easter thing, and so I took the kids and they were going crazy eating candy, and so me and my brother were both exhausted because he came to help. He fell asleep on the couch, and I was sitting there and I was like, ‘Man, I should take a shower before the main card starts. I’m getting tired.’
“I got a random text, and then I started getting more texts, and then my wife said, ‘Hey, they’re doing like a thing on you,’ because she was sitting front row. So I turned it back on and I was just kind of blown away. I didn’t expect it. I got emotional a little. It was nice.”
Swanson said that first congratulatory text was actually from former UFC commentator and fellow WEC veteran Brian Stann. At the time, Swanson didn’t have Stann’s number, so he initially assumed it was simply a case of mistaken identity when he received a note congratulating him on a Hall of Fame induction. But then the texts kept flooding in.
“I was a little bit emotional,” Swanson said. “I just feel like I’ve put so much into this sport, and I’m just trying to be an advocate of the sport literally from the day I started. This sport, it still wasn’t popular, it hadn’t been on TV yet. I was a little ahead of The Ultimate Fighter, the original one, and so when I started fighting, people assumed that I was still getting into trouble, that I had been getting into trouble when I was a youth, and I had to educate people myself, like, ‘No, it’s not cage fighting. This is mixed martial arts. It’s a legitimate sport.’ And I’ve been doing that my whole career, just trying to make fans, one person at a time.
“I’ve almost put two decades into this sport, and 15 years at the highest level. And just that little recognition, it was pretty huge for me. It was like the sport saying thank you back to me.”
Swanson’s battle with Choi is an all-time classic. The two featherweights traded heavy leather for 15 minutes of non-stop action, combining for 209 landed strikes, with each man coming precariously close to finishing the other multiple times. By the end, Swanson stood victorious in a bout that garnered a slew of “Fight of the Year” plaudits for 2016.
“The funny thing is, the strangest thing about that [fight] that always sticks out to me was the way people looked at me [afterward] when I walked out of the octagon,” Swanson said. “Because they were kind of carrying me and kind of helping me down the walkway, and people were trying to grab me, but I just remember all of the UFC employees, all the staff from the arena — I just remember them staring at me in the weirdest way. Just kind of like, jaw-dropped, looking at me. And I didn’t get it, because it was just a fight, you know?
“I knew I’d gave everything I had, but it’s kind of hard to explain, I guess. Like if somebody was super famous [who] walked through a room and people weren’t expecting to see them, like that kind of vibe. I just remember it being the oddest post-fight walk out, where I’m just trying to go back to my room and catch my breath, but the way everybody looked at me on the way to the room, I was like, ‘This is weird. Like, what’s going on?’ And then it didn’t really make sense until later — like, I had everyone’s attention.
“I think it just was the perfect storm, the way that fight played out,” Swanson continued.
“For me, it means so much more on multiple levels. I’ve said before, that’s when I found out I was going to be a dad that night. So it was the biggest crowd I’ve ever fought in front of, it was a back and forth fight. A lot of fans tell me if they’re trying to get somebody to watch MMA for the first time, that that’s a fight that they put on for them. So I’m not surprised that they’re putting the fight in, but yeah, I guess I’m surprised it was this soon, but I’m thankful.”
Swanson recently signed a new four-fight deal with the UFC that he suspect could represent his final run before hanging up his gloves for good. Although he never competed for a WEC or UFC title over the course of his 15 years under the Zuffa umbrella, “Killer Cub” was a still top contender for most of his career, and always resonated with the fan base in a special way as an athlete with one of the most exciting fighting styles in the sport.
Of course, it takes two to tango as well. Swanson said Wednesday that he hasn’t heard from his old UFC 206 dance partner since the promotion’s announcement, but he hopes to share a moment with Choi before the UFC Hall of Fame ceremony this summer in Las Vegas.
“I would love for him to be there. I’d love to see him and shake his hand and hang out with him for a bit,” Swanson said of Choi.
“I know there’s a language barrier there, but there’s no language barrier between respect.”