PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Cub Swanson understands the fight game and the way it works. He also understands that father time is undefeated, so to counter the clock, while still an active fighter, Cub also has a stable of fighters under his management company, Bloodline Combat Sports. However, don’t count out Cub the fighter just yet. After healing from a few injuries he’s been dealing with, Swanson is adamant that he’s still in search of the perfect performance. Cub admits he won’t access whether to continue or retire from the UFC Octagon until after his final 3 contracted fights are over, but he’s conscientious enough to understand that he doesn’t want to wear out his welcome. Cub has already started to prepare for life after fighting, which will keep him a fixture in the sport that he’s dedicated nearly 20 years of his life to, just in another manner. Whether in or out of the Octagon, Swanson proves you can’t cage the Cub.
Swanson talks to Zenger News about his management company, his UFC Hall of Fame induction, and much more.
Zenger: Your fighter Rafa Garcia picked up a big unanimous decision victory at UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Allen against Clay Guida. I’m sure you are very proud.
Swanson: Oh yeah! He’s one of a kind. He’s a good hearted… you can kind of say he’s a country boy, but he lives in the desert (laughing). He’s from a little town, which is basically Mexi-Cali, but on this side of the border.
Zenger: Not many guys can 30-27 Clay Guida on all three scorecards. Were you shocked at how dominant Rafa was during the fight?
Swanson: I knew that he could be. When I got the email with the matchup, I was like, “Man, as a manager, this is a great opportunity for Rafa. A good matchup and obviously a good name. But Clay has been my longtime friend and training partner.” We’re pretty close. So, I called Clay and asked if he had received the same email. And he said, yeah, and I asked if he was good with it, and he said, “It’s all good, it’s just business.” Then I said, “Do you not want me there?” And he was like, “No, I wouldn’t ask you to do that.” I told Rafa about the fight and Rafa said, “Nah, that’s your friend, I don’t want to fight him.” I told him that I talked to him, and he was good with it, and he was like, “You sure.” I said, yeah. That being said, when the time came, I didn’t think it would be as hard as it was, but I did not want to see anyone get hurt.
Zenger: As a fighter if you were asked to fight a close friend would your mentality be the same or different from your managerial stance?
Swanson: It’s hard to say. Depends on what head space you get into. If you’re too nice and the other person is able to shut it off, then you’re about to get your butt whooped. It’s a tough situation. I thought they both fought hard. Clay showed his toughness like he always does, but Rafa has been out there in Boulder training with Justin Gaethje and Drew Dober. He hasn’t shown his full potential yet. I know what he’s capable of. He came back the last two weeks and I took him to the boxing gym and sharpened up his hands, and he feels like that helped put some snap in his punches. He fought a great fight.
Zenger: I’m sure you’re not done as a fighter, but you are doing big things with your Bloodline Combat Sports management brand. Have you found that balance in management and fighting yet or are you still adjusting?
Swanson: I’m still navigating, but you’re always navigating. I think I’m in a good place, but I know, I’m not doing this forever. I’m coming up on 20 years in the game. I only got put into this thing with Bloodline when my manager passed away, and that was pretty devastating. Right away I had all these management companies DMing all my guys trying to pouch them, and I just got really upset. I wasn’t going to let these guys take all the hard work my manager did and all of the hard work I put in with these guys. So, me and my partner stepped up, we split duties, and we have been trying to do our best with this. It’s been kind of great.
Right after that I took a fight myself and I lost to Giga [Chikadze]. I had some negative headspace. So, I was like, “You know what, I really need to focus on life after fighting between fights, that way when I’m ready to walk away, I’ll already have a running start.” So, that’s what I’ve been doing. I have been putting my time and effort into coaching and managing and keeping up my own skillset. It’s a lot to juggle, but I think I’m doing a pretty good job.
Zenger: You have 41 fights now, as you mentioned, almost 20 years in the game and we are seeing a wave of retirements, Cerrone, Modafferi, Wineland, Cummings and Herman both retired on the last card. Do you have a timeline or is it about how your body feels?
Swanson: I have three more fights on this contract. I think I’ll re-access after that. I know it’s coming soon. I don’t really want to put a number on it because you never know. I feel good in the things I have accomplished. I’ve always been chasing that perfect performance. I feel like I’m still growing a little bit, but the longer you stay with it, you’re playing with fire. I don’t want to fight one too many. I want to do it and walk away on my own terms.
Zenger: You suffered a rib injury in your last fight. How is that healing up?
Swanson: It’s doing great. It bothered me a little bit when I first started training again, but I think I’m past that. The biggest thing was, I was having some back injuries that I’ve dealt with my whole career. That kept me from doing any strength training, and the worry that I wasn’t going to make 135 had me not lifting or doing anything too crazy. I was doing the minimum and a lot of cardio. That didn’t do me any favors once I started getting in the grappling exchanges. I broke my rib in a grappling exchange. I was more hurt than I would allow myself to think. I was able to get some back injections and get that addressed. Learning how to prevent my back from acting up. I’m back to some strength training and back on a program to be stronger all over. I’m feeling normal again.
Zenger: UFC 206, Your fight against Doo Ho Choi was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. What did that induction mean to you?
Swanson: In the moment I didn’t know it was going to do what it did. When I was walking out of the arena the blank stare people had backstage was trippin’ me out. I never had that. Usually, everyone is going about their business. You’re walking out and people are walking past you, but I remember literally everyone was just staring at me like I had something on my face. I was kind of out of it. That night I found out I was going to be a dad for the first time, the fight gets, “Fight of the Year,” and then it got me into the Hall of Fame. How can I not be so proud of that moment? I’m always cheering for Doo Ho Choi; he’s got my respect. The craziest thing, I will be walking in Irvine, California and an older Korean man will say, “You fought Doo Ho Choi.” The Korean’s give me so much respect. It’s so cool.
Zenger: Fighter’s don’t necessarily have to be mean guys, but there is a certain edge you guys carry. You have a family now, a wife and kids, does that play into your temperament of who you are as a fighter?
Swanson: I think that’s one of the hardest things about being in the sport so long is because, I’m not an angry 20-year-old kid anymore. I’m just not. I’m very happy with what I have. When you go through that progression of 20 years, it’s like you have to find different motivations. Yes, you love the sport, you want to compete at a level like this with straight killers, you have to be able to adjust with the times. I think at this point I have struggled here and there with it, but I’m to a point where I’m okay with it. I have really been able to be in tune with the lessons I have learned from each fight, each win, each loss. That’s another reason I’m content with it almost being the end. You progress as a human being, and you can’t overstay your welcome. This old dog still got some fight in him and I love when people test me.