Tonight, in San Antonio, Cub Swanson will headline Ultimate Fight Night 44 against Jeremy Stephens. It's been 10 years since he started his career, and with hard work, dedication and the dynamic duo of trainers, he's amassed a very respectable 20-5 record and is on a five fight winning streak. The implications for this fight are immense, as the winner can more than likely expect to gain a title shot against champion, Jose Aldo.
In a recent interview with Bloody Elbow, Swanson discussed Stephens' recent comments about punching power, how he's handling his physical conditioning, his dream team of trainers, the constant improvements in his striking and hand health and the evolution of patience he has grown accustomed to regarding a chance to fight for the belt. Here's what he had to say:
Jeremy's comments didn't really bother me. I respect him as an opponent. He's very dangerous. I just need to be on my game come fight time. That's the toughest part about this sport, you can't have an off day, especially when you're working toward a title fight. All I'm focused on right now is being the best me I can be. Whatever he wants to say is fine by me. I prefer to do my talking in the cage.
I'm pretty much always in good shape. I'm not always in fight shape, because that's impossible, but I realize I'm getting older, so I'm doing things to minimize the stress on my body. I feel amazing. This is probably the cleanest I've ever eaten, and I came in a few pounds lighter, just in case I've got to go the extra distance. I wanted to make sure that my speed wasn't hindered by a dramatic cut.
I've been working with Joel Diaz for over 5 years now; ever since the Takaya fight. He thought I was a tough kid that wasn't willing to give up and he knew that he could work with me. He tells me how horrible I was when I started [laughs]. He's not one for excuses and he won't let me slide on one single, sloppy punch. He's a technician and takes a lot of pride in his fighters. He takes it very personal if we have bad performances. He was voted boxing trainer of the year, this year, and then I also have Greg Jackson who has been voted MMA trainer of the year multiple times. Having those two guys in my corner is just ridiculous. I'm very fortunate.
Over the course of my career, I've had 8 hand breaks. Nowadays, I'm hitting a lot harder than I used to because I've put on some size and I've sharpened my technique. Between the instruction from Joel and the technique he uses to wrap my hands, it has pretty much kept them free from injury for quite some time, knock on wood. Accuracy plays a big factor, too. Making sure to hit your target and not an elbow makes a big difference. A lot of things factor in to my hand health, and all around it's gotten much better.
When I didn't get the title fight, they gave me another one to keep building my name up. I'm excited for it, because it's a bigger stage for me and it's a headliner. I'm getting the opportunity to fight on a grand scale without the pressure of fighting for the belt, because that's an animal of its own. I'm pretty grateful to have this opportunity to prove myself once again and to get more experience. This is preparing me for when it is time to get that title shot. Right now though, the only thing on my mind is this fight that's in front of me with Jeremy Stephens.