The Austin Chronicle

Fighter Inside and Outside the Octagon

By Mac McCann, November 22, 2014, 12:01am, The Score

With 26 professional MMA fights and a decade of experience under his belt, 31-year-old Cub Swanson is at the peak of his career.

He’s on a 6-0 record since he joined UFC in 2011, and stands at number two in the 145lb featherweight division. In UFC Fight Night 57’s main event on Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center, he'll square off against former UFC lightweight champ and current number three featherweight contender Frankie Edgar. The winner of the fight will likely get a chance at Jose Aldo’s featherweight championship belt. "I’ve been working for this title shot for seven years," Swanson said, and he's optimistic about the fight. "I feel great. When you’re on a win streak, your confidence is high, and it means everything in your camp has been working and it means you’re on the right track. I’m up for the challenge."

The 33-year-old Edgar will be one of Swanson’s toughest opponents yet. Over his career, Edgar has beat big names like Gray Maynard, Sean Sherk, and three wins over MMA legend B.J. Penn, with that third victory sending the future hall of famer into retirement.

Of course, Swanson himself has significant credibility in the sport. This will be his second time fighting in the main even of a UFC Fight Night in a row, which he has mixed feelings about that: "You know, I’ve always been split in two. Half of me feels very fortunate and very grateful for the opportunity that I’ve been given. The other half of me is kind of chip-on-my-shoulder and saying, 'it’s about damn time'. So I go back and worth with it."

But long before dominating in the Octagon, Swanson faced a tough childhood in Palm Springs, California. He explained what MMA means to him: "This sport definitely saved my life. I was messing up and headed in the wrong direction. I was never a bad kid or anything like that. I just, you know, like many people, just kind of wanted to rebel and to do something different. For me, [MMA] was a perfect thing because, when I started this sport, it wasn’t the cool thing to do. It was kind of frowned upon. It was kind of a way for me to rebel but still do something that was honorable."

For Swanson, every fight is important, every fight has helped him grow: "The thing is, I’ve had many tough fights in my career, all for different reasons. So I think all those together is what makes me the fighter I am now. The biggest fight I’ve ever had is against myself – whether to give up or not."

Going in to Saturday night, the big difference between the two men is that Edgar is relatively new to the featherweight division, while Swanson has fought at this size since 2006 in World Extreme Cagefighting. Going into Saturday's bout, Swanson has a lot of respect and appreciation for the former lightweight champ. Asked how Edgar has affected the division, Swanson said, "The biggest thing about [Edgar] dropping down is that we had a lack of big names at 145."

So how does Swanson see the fight going? He expects that Edgar will want to box and then look for a takedown. In 22 professional fights, Edgar's has never been finished – his only four losses were all by decision. But Swanson hopes to land some big shots against the former champ, and considering he won two 'Knockout of the Night' awards in his last five fights, he’s proven his punching power before. Even if he is taken down, Swanson, who has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is confident in his ground game. "I see myself winning, I definitely see that. But I’m going for the finish. Frankie’s never been finished before. He’s a grinder. But that’s what I’m expecting of myself – to be able to get a finish."

Regardless of how the fight on Saturday goes, we’ll be seeing more of Swanson in the future: "I’ll stop going when I stop loving it. I’m still learning, I’m still growing. Every fight I’m excited to get out there and do better. I put a lot of pressure on myself to go out there and be better."

UFC Fight Night 57 Sat., Nov. 22, 6pm. $40-150. Frank Erwin Center, 1701 Red River, Austin, 512/477-6060.

Read our interview with Swanson's opponent Frankie Edgar, and find out what the former champ has to say about his opponent, here.

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