Cub Swanson never doubted that he would be back.
When the longtime featherweight contender tore his ACL and MCL at a grappling tournament in December 2019, it was a devastating blow, but he knew he would be back better than ever. He set a goal to be competing in the Octagon within a year and a year later, nearly to the day, he will face Daniel Pineda at UFC 256.
Swanson’s knee rehab also forced the 37-year-old fan favorite to work on his mind. Subsequently, the journey back has helped Swanson become what he believes to be the best version of “Killer Cub” that we’ve ever seen.
“This is what I need to do to complete my journey back. I need to get a fight and get a win and make myself feel validated in that,” Swanson told UFC.com. “Being at this point in my career, I really feel like I’m the best version of myself. My ultimate goal has always been to be the best version of myself; I’ve always said that and that’s still my goal. I still feel like I can have better performances than I’ve had in the past and that’s my real motivation.”
That fire to compete helped push Swanson to keep icing his knee four or five times a day for a year, pushed him to complete physical therapy and develop trust in his abilities once again. That mental battle wasn’t an easy one to win, but it definitely was one that helped Swanson remember just how much he loved the fight game.
“I’ve gone into fights with a broken hand and I’ve told myself that I would worry about it later. That was the mentality I was more worried about, pushing myself and going too quickly. I kind of had to keep the reigns on myself a little bit and ask the people around me if I wasn’t doing too much. It was a lot of second guessing myself making sure I wasn’t doing too much, but I was doing enough. It was just a mental battle the whole year,” said Swanson. “I feel like a newcomer again and I’m just excited to get in there.”
Swanson feels like he’s been given a fresh start. He has been away from the Octagon for so long that he feels no pressure to prove anything; he just is looking to have fun doing something he truly loves.
“Fighters in general are like 1 percenters, and I feel that for myself to be so disciplined for so long is unique. One of the hardest things has been ‘What’s my motivation?’ Now having a family and things like that, I’m just a different person than I was 17 years ago,” said Swanson. “I think that’s been the biggest struggle. I enjoy training, I enjoy pushing myself, and I enjoy trying to set goals and accomplish them; I thrive on that.”
The goal that currently lies in the middle of Swanson’s crosshairs is Pineda, who returned to the UFC with a vengeance earlier this year. Pineda’s six years between UFC stints, combined with his impressive victory over Herbert Burns, impressed Swanson and he couldn’t be happier to face Pineda at UFC 256.
“The fact that he stuck around and fought in the lower organizations at a high level for a long time, he’s been in all the big promotions, and I think that speaks volumes of his character and his heart,” said Swanson before cracking a smile. “This is a fight that once I started getting my rhythm back, I will just concentrate on being me and I think that we will match up well. That’s why I’m happy with him as an opponent and I got a lot of respect for him, but I’m excited to kick his ass.”
Make sure you watch Swanson’s return this Saturday on UFC 256, which starts at 10pm ET / 7pm PT.