The shortest fight of Cub Swanson’s career is proving to have the longest-lasting effect.
This weekend will mark the four-year anniversary of a first-round knockout loss Swanson suffered to current UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo. The fight, which took place at a WEC event in Sacramento, lasted eight seconds.
Describing it is pretty easy. The referee got out of the way and Aldo connected on a flying knee. That’s it. As Swanson puts it, “It felt like he cracked me in the face with a baseball bat.”
Swanson (19-5), who fights Dennis Siver at UFC 162 this weekend in Las Vegas, has obviously moved past the loss by now. Unfortunately, certain fans have not.
“It gets brought up to me all the time,” Swanson told ESPN.com. “People won’t let me forget it. I’ve heard it a million times.
“I wish they were clever about it. So much time has passed that I would laugh about it, but people are so lame. I’ll be like [on Twitter], ‘I went to the store today and this happened,’ -- something funny. Then somebody will go, ‘Like the time you got kneed in the face in eight seconds?’ It’s like, ‘Yeah, buddy. Exactly.’”
What’s ironic about that is Swanson says the fans were the first thing he thought of when the fight went the way it did.
The featherweight bout was the co-main event that night in Sacramento, and Swanson knew it promised fireworks. Other fighters who had trained with both Aldo and Swanson knew it, too.
“We trained with a few similar people, and they were like, ‘You guys are identical athletes,’” Swanson said. “We both played soccer. We both like to throw. We’re good at jiu-jitsu but would rather use our hands.
“When we squared off, we were exactly the same height and same build. There was a lot of hype on him and I was kind of hit or miss, but they knew if I showed up it would be a hell of a fight.”
Well, Swanson didn’t show up -- or Aldo just threw the perfect strike. However you look at it, the fight was over before it started, and that bothered Swanson like crazy.
“I went to the hospital that night to get my face stitched up and all I could think about was, 'I owe the fans a fight.' That could have been a legendary fight in the WEC, and I didn’t approach it right.”
If Swanson continues to perform as he has in the past 18 months, he’ll get a second shot at that fight.
At 29, Swanson appears to have hit his groove. He’ll take a four-fight win streak into the cage against Siver. The streak includes knockout wins over George Roop, Ross Pearson and Charles Oliveira.
One could argue the UFC hasn’t really rewarded Swanson for his success. Despite the fact he finished Oliveira in the first round eight months ago, the Brazilian’s fight against Frankie Edgar will be featured above Swanson’s this weekend at UFC 162.
When Swanson agreed to the Siver fight months ago, he told the UFC to keep him in mind if anything happened at 145 pounds. Injuries happen. He assured them he would be ready to step into a higher-ranked bout on short notice.
When Anthony Pettis withdrew with injury from a title fight against Aldo scheduled for August, Swanson and his team picked up the phone, optimistic he had just landed a bigger fight.
“I had told them if Aldo, Pettis, [Ricardo] Lamas or [Chan Sung Jung] falls off, I want to be bumped up,” Swanson said. “They laughed and said they’d cross that road when it comes up. When it did come up, we put in a call. They said, ‘We’re going to leave things the way they are.’”
The UFC ended up booking Jung to the title fight and dropping Lamas, who was scheduled to fight him at UFC 162, from this weekend’s card.
Swanson says he was disappointed by the decision, especially the one that granted Jung a title fight, but he’s content with his original opponent.
Time, after all, is relative. One bad moment four years ago has come to define much of Swanson’s career. Who’s to say one good moment in this fight won’t do the same?
“In my mind, I’m always one win away from a title,” Swanson said. “If I fight that fight that makes everybody go, ‘Wow, he’s unstoppable,’ -- that’s all I can do.
“I think I do pose the biggest threat to Aldo. I feel like my boxing is better than his. He’s a kick boxer, with devastating kicks. Neither one of us cares to take it to the ground. I feel with my unpredictability and my boxing, I pose a big threat to him.”