Many scratched their heads once news broke that Conor McGregor’s longtime training partner (and unranked featherweight prospect) Artem Lobov would be main eventing UFC Nashville this weekend against No. 4-ranked veteran Cub Swanson.
Swanson is currently on a three-fight win streak and is looking to make a statement against Lobov, who he says has been running his mouth a little too much for ‘Killer Cub’s’ liking. Lobov is two for two in his UFC tenure, currently on a two-fight win streak after his unanimous decision win over Teruto Ishihara this past November in Belfast.
If you’re confused as to why an unranked featherweight is headlining a card against the No. 4-ranked 145-pound fighter in the world, allow Swanson’s recent comments to MMA Junkie clear things up for you as he explains why his matchup against Lobov actually makes sense:
“People just don’t think long-term about how the division is, and who’s going to be in line,” Swanson said. “You can’t kill off all of the No. 1 contenders with the two top-rising guys going against each other. Because then one wins, and that guy gets injured and you’ve got nobody. So they need to keep a couple of contenders in play. I understand how that game works. Fact of the matter is, I can’t fight a lot of the guys in the top 10 because I’ve already fought them.
“This is a guy that has a lot of hype around his name for whatever reason. He started talking crap and they said, ‘Do you want to fight him?’ And I was like, ‘Cool.’ I don’t like the guy already, so I don’t mind.
“Anybody that thinks that this fight shouldn’t happen, look at the reality of it: One, you don’t like him and you want to see me kick his ass – cool. No. 2: He gets a stunning upset, and boom, that’s a new guy that’s right there in the division that has a big following. Or three, we both show up and beat the crap out of each other, and it’s an epic fight. What’s wrong with any of those scenarios?”
Swanson is looking to avoid that ‘stunning upset’, however, as he knows he’ll have to train even more intensely than he did for his previous camp when as prepared for Doo Ho Choi at UFC 206. Swanson and Choi put on a ‘Fight Of The Year’ candidate that the veteran won via unanimous decision.
With Lobov’s hunger to make a name for himself in the sport mixed in with the fact that he’s training with one of the best gyms in the world at SBG Ireland, Swanson is is reluctant to take the Russian lightly:
“The reality of it is, (Lobov) is still getting better,” Swanson said. “Every fight that he’s had in the UFC, he’s made strides. He’s an awkward guy, but he’s getting better. He’s training with a good camp, he’s got good people around him, he’s motivated, he’s hungry.
“I had to watch film on him and always anticipate that he was going to be better. And then the fact that this is five rounds? I had to step up my training. So, everything I did last camp, I had to do more of this camp. There’s no way I can go into this fight taking it lightly – that would be stupid of me.”
Prior to his current win streak, Swanson was on a two-fight losing skid to two of the featherweight crop’s elite as he was defeated by both Frankie Edgar and now-interim division champ Max Holloway. Swanson lost both of those bouts via submission in the latter rounds of the contest.
Swanson cites a period of unhappiness and reluctance to compete as to why he suffered the string of defeats, and after having regrouped during a year-long layoff in which he partnered up with a sports psychologist he’s determined to put on an even better performance than he did in his last outing:
“I’m not going to go out there and beg to get title fights, because that’s not what makes me happy,” Swanson said. “I’m the best at this when I’m happy. I feel like my two losses, I wasn’t happy in those situations. They made me take fights that I wasn’t thrilled about. I let things get to me. I was emotional and detached from the love of this sport.
“That’s (why) within my year layoff, getting back to it and working with a sports psychologist and just remembering why I got into this, why I love fighting, I’ve been able to put on more great performances and I feel they’ve been better every fight. My goal is to go out there and put on a better fight than the last one, and if they decide to give me a fight, then I will show up.
“I know all I can do is try to be there at the right times, and try to fight at the right times, and make sure that, strategically, that I’m always in the situation to be considered. That’s all I can, do that’s all Im focused on.”
As to how he thinks the bout against Lobov will go, Swanson predicts ‘beautiful destruction’ when he takes centre Octagon across from Lobov and visualises capturing his first stoppage victory since July of 2013 (vs. Dennis Siver at UFC 162 via third round TKO):
“When I visualize it in my head, I see myself stopping him,” Swanson said. “Whether it be via punches or submissions, I’ve seen it all. I really just want to go in there and just flow, and not overthink it. Just take what’s there, show that I’m the better fighter, and if he’s game or if it’s a war, then so be it: five rounds of beautiful destruction.”