There comes a time in every fighter’s career where they have to put up or shut up. They have to take the next step in their career, putting aside past setbacks and renewing their focus. For UFC featherweight Cub Swanson, that moment came on June 22 in Atlantic City, N.J.

Swanson had alternated wins and losses through seven fights since returning to the Zuffa umbrella of promotions in 2008. Any time things were looking up for the Jackson’s MMA product, he would once again lose a fight. In fact, his only back-to-back wins as a Zuffa fighter came in his debut and sophomore efforts with the WEC, before a stunning 35-second submission loss to UFC legend Jens Pulver resulted in Swanson taking one fight—just 11 days after the defeat—in a small regional promotion. He won that bout, only to return to his pattern of winning one and losing one when he rejoined the WEC and then transitioned to the UFC. Then, on that Friday night in June, something changed.

“I feel like I’ve turned a page in my career, and I’m very confident and comfortable when I fight now,” Swanson told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I guess you could say I’m all grown up and am a real veteran of the sport.”

Swanson (R) looks for a flying knee (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

That confidence allowed Swanson to accomplish something he hadn’t done within the UFC or WEC in five years—win consecutive fights. The last time Swanson had accomplished such a feat under the Zuffa banner, he had submitted Tommy Lee and decisioned Micah Miller in 2007. The last time he had accomplished consecutive victories regardless of promotion was 2008, when he followed up his regional circuit victory over Donny Walker with a triumphant return to the WEC in claiming a unanimous verdict over Hiroyuki Takaya.

Yet, besides just winning two straight fights for the first time in several years, the true icing on the cake was not just in what he did, but in who he beat and how he did it. His opponent that night in New Jersey was Ross Pearson. The Brit had claimed the title of Ultimate Fighter on season nine of the reality show and had gone on to win his next two Octagon appearances as a lightweight, including an impressive decision victory over contender Dennis Siver.

Pearson had fallen on tougher times since then, posting alternating wins and losses that could give Swanson a case of déjà vu. Pearson chose to drop down from lightweight to featherweight and appeared poised for a run at contendership. What he ran into instead was Swanson’s left hook.

“I was trying to stay composed during the fight [because] I knew I was chipping away at him,” Swanson explained. “In the end, it played out almost exactly like I thought it would.”

It was an important hurdle for the 28-year-old to clear. After five years of struggling to put it all together, he had finally shown the potential that his coach, Greg Jackson, knew existed within him.

“It was a huge win for me personally,” Swanson admitted. “I was 100 percent confident I would win and needed to follow through with it.”

Part of the reason Swanson has managed to survive the UFC’s frequent cuts is due to his ability to entertain inside the cage. Three of his previous outings had resulted in “Fight of the Night” bonuses, and his second-round TKO of Pearson gave him his first “Knockout of the Night” award.

If Swanson can continue to enhance his appeal by taking that exciting style and adding victories to it, he’ll achieve a formula that leads to No. 1 contender fights and title bids. And it’s not hard to envision Swanson fighting for the gold. Despite his struggles to remain consistent, he has only lost to current UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and contenders Chad Mendes and Ricardo Lamas in the last three years.

Swanson (R) delivers a right hand (James Law/Heavy MMA)

The next hurdle in Swanson’s path is Charles Oliveira. Another former lightweight hoping to find more success with a move to featherweight, Oliveira has claimed wins in his first two outings at 145. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with above average striking, Oliveira presents a host of problems for Swanson. A strong submission game is the perfect weapon against Swanson, who has been submitted three times in his career, and Oliveira definitely possesses that weapon. But if Swanson is concerned, he’s not showing it.

“I’m going to just focus on my game and let the fight happen,” Swanson said.

Despite his recent victories and what his coach sees in him, Swanson will undoubtedly enter the Octagon at UFC 152 in Toronto on Sept. 22 as the underdog against Oliveira. Yet, the Californian feels that there are at least a few areas where the edge is his.

“I believe my experience, determination and vision are my advantages,” Swanson stated.

He also suggests that this fight will live up to his reputation for putting on an entertaining show, predicting that the fight will end with him scoring a first-round TKO.

With his win over Pearson, Swanson took the next step in his career. Now, he has the opportunity to do even more. In fact, he has the opportunity to do something he’s never before accomplished as a Zuffa fighter: win three straight.

Top Photo: Cub Swanson (James Law/Heavy MMA)

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