UFC Atlantic City: How Close Did Cub Swanson Come to Leaving the UFC, Anyway?

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Cub Swanson came awfully close to leaving the UFC earlier this year. Luckily, he’s back at UFC Atlantic City with a change for vengeance against Frankie Edgar.

Atlantic City, NJ — It’s nearly unthinkable, but the UFC’s featherweight division came dangerously close to losing Killer Cub. Cub Swanson, a staple of the 145lb weight class, and all-around fan favorite, explored free agency earlier this year. His bout with Brian Ortega, a losing effort against an up-and-comer now set to face Max Holloway for the title, was the last fight of his previous deal. Swanson will return to the octagon Saturday at UFC Atlantic City — but it’s a return that was far from certain.

Reportedly, Swanson was offered a solid deal from a promotion other than the UFC. That Swanson was highly sought after comes as no surprise to anyone paying attention. His fighting style makes him a human highlight reel. Swanson’s about as fan-friendly as they come. A little more surprising was the word that it wasn’t Bellator making the pitch. Still, how close was Swanson to leaving his UFC home?

Cageside Press asked Cub Swanson just that at the UFC Atlantic City media day on Thursday, ahead of his big rematch against Frankie Edgar.

“I had a pretty good deal offered,” Swanson told us. “The next step was to send that into the UFC. We had a couple of things that we countered with, and wanted to get done, and they said no problem. Then I was just waiting to get it back so we could send it in. A little time was passing, I was getting impatient, so I said ‘hey let’s let the UFC know exactly what’s coming, and we’ll go from there.’ When we reached out to them, before I even said anything, they made me another offer — that was all I needed. That and a fight. That was all I needed to say ‘okay, lets do it.'”

On whether it was the money, or the chance for vengeance against Edgar, that sealed the deal, Swanson said most of it “was financial terms.”

“I just really wanted to feel at this point that I was given what I was worth,” he explained. Plus, he was looking to be “given a little bit of respect with that. It’s like, I’ve done a lot for the company, I want to be sure I’m being taken care of. I don’t know how long I’m going to fight, I still feel great, I still feel like I haven’t peaked. But looking forward, just having that family now, it’s like okay, I want to make sure I’m getting taken care of. Because it could go away at any time, you never know. So I want to make sure I’m taken care of and that I can give my family a great life.”

His family is about to expand. A little more than expected. Swanson has twin baby boys on the way. A happy surprise, in the end. “I’m pretty excited that they’re boys, because we already have the girl,” he said, noting his daughter is “awesome.”

“When we were getting the ultrasound done, we kept joking, like ‘it’s going to be twins!’ — like completely joking,” Swanson recalled with a smile. “I kept joking that we were going to have twin girls, and I was going to get stuck in the house with four girls. When we saw the ultrasound, it was one, and then that baby disappeared, and then it was kind of flipped.”

“I’ve seen enough ultrasounds now where I kind of know what’s going on,” he continued. “Then she was able to get them both on the screen, and she’s like ‘there’s two.’ Me and my girlfriend were just like ‘wow.’ Three strollers, three car seats, three of everything. You know we’re having trouble splitting diaper duty between the two of us for one baby, [now] it’s going to be three.”

Yet Swanson was beaming even while recounting the tale, clearly thrilled to see his family growing. “A lot was going through our heads, but it’s a blessing.”

Before he can focus on family life, Cub Swanson needs to face the man who finished him back in 2014, Frankie Edgar. That was all the way back at UFC Fight Night 57. On how the pair has changed, Swanson suggested that in Edgar’s case, “he’s a lot of the same guy we’ve seen over the years.”

“I think his striking has gotten a little bit better,” he said, “he’s gotten a little more comfortable throwing, but he hasn’t really had to change too much because he’s dominated most of the people he’s fought.” As Swanson pointed out, since their first meeting, Edgar has lost only to Jose Aldo, and more recently, Brian Ortega, who Swanson fell victim to as well.

For his part, Swanson said he had to change. “I had to adapt since I lost to him and a couple of others,” he told us. “I really feel like, looking back, my loss to him was a blessing, because it forced me to become a smarter fighter,” ‘Killer Cub’ continued. Now, he had to “go in there with multiple game plans, try to make adjustments on the fly. At this point I’m with a new team, just trying to be better in the future. It’s exciting. This is the first step to be able to showcase that.”

A win over Edgar could mean more than just vengeance, of course. It would once again put Cub Swanson on the brink of a title shot. He’s not worrying about that at the moment, however.

“I think I’m always going to be right there,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter to me at this point. I feel like I’ve had the title shot dangled in front of my face for a long time. So I absolutely do not care.” Instead, he plans to taking things “one fight at a time, whether it be somebody I’ve already fought, or one of these young up and comers.” Swanson is more than willing to take them all on. He wants to test himself, and is ultimately “just chasing the best performance. And getting paid, and being able to set myself up. Those are really my goals right now. If the title fight comes in the meantime, then I would be grateful and happy to take that on, but that is not my focus.”

Much has been made of Edgar coming back so soon after his knockout loss at the hands of Brian Ortega. On that front, Swanson has seen both sides. “I’ve done it a couple times,” he told us. “In my debut against Lamas, I felt like I made a mistake, and I urged my coaches to book me a fight right away.” They did, and he went on a six fight tear, one that included his big knockout of George Roop. “So it worked out perfect for me,” he said.

“Then on the flip-side of that,” Swanson continued, “when I did fight Frankie, I got stopped off that six fight win streak. I had a tough loss, I asked to be right back in there, preferably against a striker that way I could have time to fix those holes in my game. And I fought Holloway and I lost that fight pretty bad, and got injured a bunch. So it didn’t work out for me. So I’ve seen both sides of it, and you never know, I’m not going to put too much on it.”

Either way, expect Cub Swanson to be his killer self in a stellar co-main event at UFC Atlantic City. The card (otherwise known as UFC Fight Night 128) airs live on Fox Sports 1 from the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ on Saturday night.

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