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Cub Swanson: Embracing Challenges and Shaping Legacies in the UFC Octagon

Cub Swanson
Black Belt Plus

Standing in the Octagon after his decision victory over Hakeem Dawodu last August, Cub Swanson was visibly emotional. Uncertain if he had done enough to defeat his Canadian opponent, Swanson was also contending with the profound emotions linked to the high standards he sets for himself and his dedication to consistently meeting them.

Backstage, an anxious Swanson admitted, "I knew I was ready, I was just afraid of not performing well. I literally was in tears backstage—a first for me." This weekend, Swanson returns to action against Andre "Touchy" Fili in the UFC 303 preliminaries at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Despite his fears, Swanson expressed satisfaction with his performance, "My opponent was trickier than I expected, but I made the necessary adjustments and fought smart."

Reviewing his last match, Swanson felt reassured by his win, especially after his discussions with his team, though he believed he had fallen short by not securing a knockout in the final round. This sense of self-imposed pressure was a recurring theme in his training camp, where he faced numerous doubts and physical challenges. "It was a tough situation, but I managed to gut through it, and I'm happy with how it all worked out," he reflected.

Beyond his career, Swanson's thoughts have increasingly turned to his future outside the ring, particularly after the unexpected death of his longtime manager, Kami Safdari, in late 2020. This loss prompted him to focus more on coaching and mentoring at the Bloodline Combat Sports Agency, which he founded with Safdari and Mani Ahmadi. "I’ve been coaching almost my whole career, trying to pay it forward," Swanson shared, emphasizing his role as a father, husband, and mentor to emerging fighters.

As Swanson prepared for his bout with Fili, he saw his active competition as a teaching opportunity, demonstrating the practices he preaches to his fighters. Bringing his team to Las Vegas for Fight Week, he highlighted the educational value of the experience, especially for those new to the UFC's high stakes environment.

Swanson's career in MMA, marked by his engaging style and memorable fights like his UFC 206 bout with Dooho Choi (later inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame), has been about creating "beautiful destruction." As he evolves from competitor to mentor, Swanson is focused on his legacy, stressing the innovations he has brought to the sport. "I feel like I'm one of the ones that pushed to be exciting, to do crazy stuff, to have fun in there," he noted, underscoring his influence on the sport's dynamic nature.

Despite not always feeling recognized for his contributions, Swanson remains committed to delivering spectacular performances. As he approaches his fight, he contemplates the unique challenges of competing in a large arena after several years, recognizing both the pressures and the potential for greatness. "The pressure is good; you just can't let it break you," Swanson concluded, ready to showcase his enduring skill and heart in the Octagon.

Join the excitement of UFC 303: Pereira vs Procházka 2, and witness Cub Swanson's pursuit of excellence live from Las Vegas.

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