Cub Swanson Calls Dibs Over Frankie Edgar: 'I'm The More Exciting Fighter'

Cub Swanson Calls Dibs Over Frankie Edgar: 'I'm The More Exciting Fighter'

Cub Swanson makes his case for a UFC title shot, talks rebuilding "Killer Cub."

May 27, 2017 by FloCombat Staff
Cub Swanson Calls Dibs Over Frankie Edgar: 'I'm The More Exciting Fighter'
Cub Swanson is a man of many talents, but one trait shines through more than the rest these days.

The UFC featherweight staple has a knack for making the incredibly difficult and complex appear as if it’s something he does with relative ease, and “Killer Cub’s” skill comes across each and every time he makes that walk into the UFC Octagon.
From the elite-level technique he unloads with speed and precision to the physics-be-damned offerings to the title run he re-ignited at a time when the MMA community at large wrote him off as irrelevant, Swanson simply rolls on.
In the same vein as Robbie Lawler resurrecting his otherworldly love for the scrap by discovering a hunger for gold, Swanson reclaimed his place as one of the best 145-pound fighters in the world by altering the entire focus of his approach.
Yet, where the “Ruthless” one rediscovered his passion by returning to the promotion he initially made his name in, it took Swanson nearly walking away from the sport entirely before he turned around and dove headlong back into the fray. At his lowest point, Swanson had to realize things within his control needed his focus and everything else was exactly that.
Fast forward two years complete with an impressive run of success, and Swanson finds himself in coveted, yet familiar territory.
A four-fight winning streak has him knocking on the door of a title opportunity that has long eluded him, but even though he’s earned his way back into the conversation, there is nothing guaranteed where championship gold is concerned.
Featherweight titleholder Jose Aldo and interim champion Max Holloway are set to collide in a unification bout at UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro on June 3, and Swanson is angling to face the winner toward the end of 2017. That said, former opponent and multi-time title challenger Frankie Edgar is very much in the mix as well, and Tom's River's finest has stated his own claim for a fight with whomever emerges from the clash of champions down in Brazil.
And while he understands Edgar’s motivations and push for the ultimate prize, Swanson believes there’s more weight on his side regarding the next shot at featherweight gold.
“A lot of people are saying if Aldo wins I’m next and if Holloway wins Frankie will get the shot, but in talking to the UFC, I can honestly see me getting it either way it goes because I’m the more exciting fighter,” Swanson told FloCombat in an exclusive interview. “People want to see exciting fights, and I’m the more exciting fight in either matchup.
“At this point in the UFC, they are looking for what the fans want to see and looking to put together the biggest, most exciting fights, and that’s me. Frankie is awesome, and he definitely has that win over me, but he just fought for the title. A couple times in fact, and I’d honestly love to see him drop down to 135, because I believe he’d be the champion in that division. But if this comes down to me or him getting the next shot, I believe it goes to me because I make the more exciting fight.”
Swanson’s outlook on the fight game and everything surrounding his place in the chaos has never been sharper, but it wasn’t all too long ago where his very career hung delicately in the balance.
As Swanson’s 2015 campaign drew to a close, there was a ton of uncertainty surrounding his fighting future and for myriad reasons, all of which were beyond valid. Swanson was not only sitting on back-to-back losses for the first time in his decade-long career, but a cluster of broken promises in regard to the title shot he craved clouded the picture even further.
Swanson had always been able to balance his fiery, borderline berserker aggression inside the cage with his reserved nature beyond the spotlight, but the intense side of the equation was winning out. Due to rough showings against Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway in pivotal matchups, the Jackson/Winkeljohn product would be forced to reclimb the entire divisional ladder to regain his spot in the 145-pound title picture.
Swanson found himself wondering if he wanted, and/or cared to, set out on what was guaranteed to be a long journey, and somewhere in the chaos of his mind it clicked. Suddenly a peace of mind that had long been lost and an overwhelming sense of calm swept over him as he realized the mistake which he’d made and had been making for the past several years.
A six-fight winning streak over tough competition brought a confidence once fleeting to a place where he wore it like an MMA superhero, but the high-intensity drama of a would-he-or-wouldn’t-he seesaw teeter of a title shot ate him alive inside. To remedy the latter and to put himself in a place to regain the prior, Swanson realized putting his focus on things beyond his control was truly pointless and a tremendous waste of energy by all measure.
“I’m not going to stress out over something I have no control over, and I learned that lesson dealing with the title situation a while back,” Swanson said. “I was on an emotional rollercoaster for more than a year, and that tore me up. Then in my opinion I took an unnecessary fight in Frankie Edgar and lost then lost the next fight after that. It’s like you are rolling down a hill out of control and getting further and further away when you were right at the peak. That’s tough to deal with, and it’s never going to happen to me again.
“I got caught up caring, worrying and focusing on all the wrong things and now I don’t even stress on those aspects anymore. I’ll never give anyone control over my emotions like that again. Whatever comes next I’ll be ready, but I’m always going to put myself in the best situation to get what I want, and that’s a title fight.”
To spark his comeback, Swanson would simply reconnect with his love for the challenge fighting brought front and center, propelling him to make a return to fighting in early 2016. Much like his true self without four-ounce gloves strapped to his hands, Swanson made his return to the Octagon against Hacran Dias in quiet and humble fashion.
Again, here was a man who had battled back from the brink of being cut to roll off one of the most dominant runs in the promotion’s featherweight history under Zuffa’s watch but was competing in the first bout of the main card at UFC on Fox 19 while other fighters carried the duties which come with primetime slot placement at the event.
That night in Tampa, Swanson produced a workmanlike effort to secure the unanimous decision victory over the Nova Uniao product. And while Swanson showed flashes of his signature aggression and creativity, there was a broader sense the typically hard-charging featherweight was looking to regain his footing just as much as he sought victory inside the Octagon.
A win over Tatsuya Kawajiri produced a similar reaction from the MMA landscape, and Swanson’s pair of victories put him in an interesting position. He was facing tough opposition inside the Octagon but wasn’t generating the buzz typically attached to his fights. Swanson insists there was a point in doing so, and it was more about the specifics of the stylistic matchups than the hoopla that comes with high-profile affairs.
“Everything is where it needs to be and the progression has brought me to a place where I’m ready for that opportunity now,” Swanson said. “My camp and all of my trainers and coaches are great and we’ve been rolling since this comeback began. Each one of those fights starting with Hacran I faced a guy with a different style who also brought a unique skill to the table. I’ve been able to prepare properly and add something new to my game with every camp.
“I went into every one of those fights with great game plans and was able to shut down their games and showcase my style. I feel like my fight IQ is the highest it’s ever been, and I’m seeing things differently in there. A lot of that comes from being a veteran of the game, but it also comes with the type of preparation I’m doing.”

Swanson’s back-to-back victories put him in a curious position in the divisional picture at large. The promotion could rehash one of Swanson’s earlier dust ups or put him in a position to potentially boost talent making their way up the ladder. And when Korean super prospect Doo Ho Choi, a fighter UFC President Dana White deemed was guaranteed to be a future star, called him out, it seemed as if Swanson was being set up to be a stepping stone in the rise of the “Korean Superboy.”
And while that plan was all fine and good for some, Swanson had far different plans. The California native had always operated with the utmost respect when it came to the fighters sharing the cage with him, but getting called out flipped an internal switch of the primal variety, and Swanson proved his name is one best left alone.
“I still have a chip on my shoulder that comes out when I’m fighting because my opponent comes in there thinking they can beat me and that alone brings something else out in me,” Swanson said. “Plus there are all these people calling me out now and that gets me motivated in a different kind of way and I’m proving to them one at a time it’s a bad idea to do so. As far as everything else goes, man, I’m relaxed and loving life, but that all has to do with focusing on what I can control and truly letting go of the rest.”
Where the featherweight striker had been low key and seemingly indecisive about any type of big-picture future with his one-fight-at-a-time approach, Swanson had done a remarkable job of hiding the larger ambitions starting to swell within him.
Several times in the lead up to his clash with Choi at UFC 206 in Toronto, Swanson mentioned the disrespect he felt being called out at all, let alone by a prospect, but it took until fight night for the MMA world to see just how once-again-fine-tuned the brushstroke of the man who painted beautiful destruction had become.
Swanson used every drop of the 15-minute time limit to punish the young up-and-comer and rebound to overcome adversity of his own when a Choi shot found its mark. The end result was not only a Fight of the Year-winning performance from Swanson, but certifiable proof the veteran contender had returned for more than just paydays and challenges.
He had returned for more--much more--and he was determined to get it all. 
“I’m definitely in the same position I’ve been in a few times before, it’s just that this time I’m a little bit more grown up, a little bit more ready," Swanson said. "That’s the biggest difference now. I know what it takes to be the main event and do all of the things that come with it. I know where my focus needs to be and what is wasted energy beyond my control. I’m ready for it all. If it’s me next for the title shot, then I’m ready for it."
As things would shake out, the championship tier of the featherweight fold would take a turn toward progress in the aftermath of UFC 206, as newly minted interim champion Max Holloway landed his long-awaited dance with undisputed titleholder Jose Aldo June 3 at UFC 212. 

Fellow contender Frankie Edgar would eventually go on to face a prospect in his own right in Yair Rodriguez, but that matchup would come after Swanson was paired with Conor McGregor affiliate Artem Lobov. News of the bout sent a shockwave of confusion throughout the MMA community and produced aftershocks aplenty when the fight was cemented as the main event of the UFC’s return to Nashville for Fight Night 108 on April 22.

By and large, the bout appeared to have little to no upside for the resurgent contender, and all the potential reward would be pushed toward “The Russian Hammer.” With Lobov’s journeyman record and limited skill set, many figured Swanson would obliterate the SBG Ireland fighter, which was a prediction the Doom Squad leader publicly refuted at every turn.
In interview after interview, Swanson laid out potential scenarios where Lobov could punch a winning ticket, all the while maintaining the confidence he’d fought so hard to regain. Swanson’s approach ultimately proved to be a brilliant tactical move, as he single-handedly created intrigue where very little existed previously.
And while Lobov had a solid opening frame where he landed the bigger, more powerful shots, the final 20 minutes belonged to Swanson. The Mike Winkeljohn and Brandon Gibson-trained striker put on an offensive clinic at Lobov’s expense to pick up a fourth consecutive win that would put Swanson even deeper into title contention.
“The big appeal of taking the fight with Artem was knowing it was the main event and I would get the chance to take on all of the extra stuff that comes with having that position,” Swanson said. “In a sense, it was practice for the bigger things ahead. It was also a chance for me to carry an event. People were downplaying the fight saying I was going to smash Artem, so it was on my shoulders to carry the card, and that’s perfectly fine with me.
“I knew Artem was going to be tougher than people were giving him credit for. I had to keep that in mind and stay on my game plan, because I was told over and over how I should smash him in the first round and that he didn’t belong in there with me. I knew he was capable of a lot more than people were giving him and had to keep the right frame of mind.
“I couldn’t let any of that talk get to me, but over a four-month timespan that stuff can find its way in for sure,” he added. “So blocking all of that out, staying with the game plan and going out there and performing was what I needed to do and that’s what I did for sure.”
In an uncharacteristic turn, Swanson used his post-fight interview to serve his intention to land the next title shot to the UFC and to fight fans alike, which instantaneously set social media platforms abuzz with talk of potential scenarios. Aldo and Holloway were set to handle their business in Rio de Janeiro, just as Edgar and Rodriguez were slated to tangle at UFC 211 in Dallas on May 13.
Although Edgar would emerge victorious and the clash of champions is yet to play out, Swanson has zero doubt who the next man fighting for a title should be. And while he credits Edgar for a strong performance to best him nearly three years back in Austin, Texas, the longest-standing 145-pound fighter on the UFC roster believes his time for a championship opportunity has finally arrived.
Swanson has faced defeat at the hands of all three men at different points in his career, but he feels his personal evolution as a man and competitor has made him a different type of animal in the here and now. In his heart and mind, Swanson believes he’s capable of emerging victorious against each of them and knows past experience would make him a heavy underdog in any scenario.

And therein lies a big part of the appeal. Swanson’s entire career has been about proving his worth and what he’s made of, so it’s only fitting the three men sharing the title tier of his division each represents a different mountain he would have to climb. And there’s nothing more Cub Swanson would rather do than show what he’s made of.

(Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

“I know people are going to have their doubts because they don’t see the difference, but I know it’s there,” Swanson said. “It’s exciting for me to go out there and prove I’ve grown as a person and a fighter, and there is measured improvement from every time I’ve been knocked down. As much as I don’t want to go through the downs and the lows that come with this sport, I truly believe the people who follow my career and who are my fans are with me because they’ve seen me get knocked down and get right back up. They’ve seen me overcome adversity because that’s who I am as a fighter.
“I think my resilience is a big reason I’ve gained popularity over the years. I’ve never received a promotional push like a superstar and I’ve always been just a guy who is around the sport in a manner of speaking. But I’ve never been more popular with fans than I am right now, and it’s 100 percent based on my work ethic and what I’ve brought to the table. I’m not out there running my mouth or throwing low blows or anything crazy at people. I’m just being myself and to know that has connected with people really makes me proud.
“I don’t believe it’s worth sacrificing who you are to make that money or grab the attention of fight fans, but there’s very little proof you can become a superstar any other way. That said, I’ve stuck to who I am through it all and tried to get a little bit better each and every time. I’ve been fortunate to do it my own way.”
While there are different scenarios at play to how things may or may not work out on the road ahead, the one certainty is all eyes in the featherweight fold will fall on the upcoming showdown between Aldo and Holloway at UFC 212. Swanson believes in his heart he’ll get the first crack at the winner, and he’ll have a great seat to watch the action on the night, as the cerebral featherweight will make his official debut working the desk at Fox Sports 1 that Saturday night.
Although Swanson will be charged with breaking down the action for the viewing public, he’ll also keep a sharp eye and mind to everything that unfolds between the two champions inside the cage. He’s familiar with how both Aldo and Holloway move, but years have passed since he stood across from them inside the Octagon.
And if Swanson gets his wish, that exact opportunity is how he’ll kick off a 2018 campaign he plans to make the biggest year of a career forged by integrity and perseverance. Swanson and his longtime girlfriend Kenda Perez are set to welcome a baby girl in August, and what better way to funnel all the newfound motivation and energy than by putting it all into preparation for the biggest fight of his life?
Swanson can’t think of a better scenario, and he believes that particular flow of things is precisely how things need to play out on the road ahead.
“It would be perfect for me to get the title shot and have the fight on the New Year’s Eve card," Swanson said. "Our baby is due in August and that would give me plenty of time to prepare. Becoming a father then stepping in for the biggest fight of my career would take me to a totally different level as a fighter and would put my preparation on a different level of intensity.
“Fighting for the title on the New Year’s Eve card would be the perfect scenario. I think that needs to happen.”