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Cub Swanson: Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey were pampered and had easier path than fighters like me

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Cub Swanson has won his last four fights after losing to Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway. (Getty)

Becoming a parent has a funny way of changing one’s perspective on life.

Cub Swanson became a father for the first time on Aug. 21, when his girlfriend, Kenda Perez, gave birth to Royal Rae Swanson. Royal’s father will fight for the first time since her birth on Saturday at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California, when he meets unbeaten Brian Ortega in the main event of UFC Fight Night 123.

Swanson long has been one of the elite fighters in the world and has a combined UFC/WEC record of 15-6 with seven finishes. He’s ranked fourth at featherweight behind champion Max Holloway, No. 1 Jose Aldo, No. 2 Frankie Edgar and No. 3 Ricardo Lamas.

If Swanson gets past the 12-0 Ortega, he’ll be in prime position for a championship shot.

But Swanson has a lot on his plate and plenty of soul-searching to do. His contract expires after the Ortega fight, when he’ll be free to sign wherever he wants.

He desperately wants to avenge his losses to Holloway and Aldo, in particular, but he’s long past the stage in his career where he wants a fight just for the competitive nature of it.

The UFC hasn’t said what is next for Holloway, though it seems logical that it would be Edgar, since Edgar was supposed to fight Holloway at UFC 218 before pulling out with an injury and being replaced by Aldo. Holloway stopped Aldo in the third round for the second fight in a row, clearly establishing himself as the top dog at 145 pounds. So if Edgar does get the Holloway fight and he gets past Ortega, Swanson was asked if he’d take Aldo next.

He said yes, with a caveat.

“I would never say yes to a fight that would take me out of the title picture if I’m in it,” Swanson said. “If I did it, I’d want to be compensated. That’s the important thing. If you ask me to do something like that, I need to be compensated correctly.”

And that led to the inevitable question: Do you believe you’re being compensated correctly? A younger Swanson, the one with no obligations to anyone but himself, may have answered differently.

Swanson, one of the many UFC fighters who has been willing to fight anyone, anytime, anywhere, now has a different take given his daughter’s birth.

“No, I haven’t been, and I feel all the fighters should be paid more,” Swanson said. “I feel I was putting in my dues for a long time out of an ignorance of thinking, ‘I’m going to put in the work and I’ll be taken care of.’ I feel I’ve been paid good, but when you see guys like Conor [McGregor], guys like Nate Diaz, who are hardly fighting and make a couple of [million] each fight, man.

“I’ve trained side-by-side with all these boxers and they make more money than me. My boxing coach [Joel Diaz] makes more money than I do making a small percentage of one of his boxers’ purses. That put it into perspective, especially when I’ll look at a boxer and realize that he doesn’t train harder than me. For everything I’ve already done and what I bring to the table, and what a lot of us do, we should be taken care of more long-term, that’s all.”

Conor McGregor is renegotiating his deal with the UFC. (Getty)

It was put to Swanson that McGregor and Ronda Rousey have won titles, sold thousands of tickets and millions of pay-per-views and that they deserved what they made.

He didn’t dispute that contention, but had an interesting response.

“That’s very fair, but I also think both of them were very pampered,” Swanson said of McGregor and Rousey. “You know I’ll take slack for saying that, but it’s very true. I tell young fighters this all the time. Me and Ortega both, we’re just another fighter from California. We’re not from a country that doesn’t have any other fighters and so we don’t have an entire country backing us up. So we’re not an easy sell from a promoter’s perspective.

“Fighters like that, they get hand-picked opponents their entire career. Guys like me, they’re like, ‘Yeah, he’s winning, but let’s give him tougher and tougher and tougher and tougher guys.’ That’s literally how they book my fights. It’s a lot harder for somebody like me to have an undefeated career than somebody like a Conor or a Ronda.”

It’s not fair to either McGregor and Rousey, though, to dismiss them as pampered stars who had everything given to them. Both worked extremely hard to build their personas and they won the big fights at the right time.

But Swanson thinks it didn’t come without assistance from the top.

“One, they’re being compensated above and beyond,” he said. “Two, their opponents were picked at the right time and it was the right person. When [McGregor fought] Chad Mendes, that fight, [Mendes] wasn’t even training when Aldo pulled out. Five other people were training and they went with the guy who is the least in shape. Same thing happened with Nate Diaz. Five other people signed on the dotted line and Nate Diaz got the fight because he was the least in shape. There was too much money to be lost. It’s simple.”

So money is on Swanson’s mind, but he knows he can’t think of things like his contract or his next opponent with a talented opponent like Ortega in front of him.

He raved about Ortega’s talent and insisted that the new baby, the end of his contract and his money concerns won’t be an issue.

“If I’m making lunch and you ask me what I’m going to have for dinner, I’d say, ‘I have no idea because I’m focused on eating this lunch I’m making right now,’ ” Swanson said. “That’s literally how I do it. I will focus on the fight and doing what I can to be ready for that and the other stuff will play out when it’s time.”

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