The stage was set for Mike Swick to shine at UFC 103. The former The Ultimate Fighter star would be in his home state of Texas, fighting Martin Kampmann for a shot at Georges St. Pierre. Instead, training partner Josh Koscheck rolled onto Swick’s ankle in the weeks before the biggest fight of his career. Swick had to pull out of the fight, leaving Paul Daley to knock out Kampmann in Swick’s place.
Now Swick is back, healthy, and gunning for that title shot. Heavy.com’s Jeremy Botter talks with the Texan about training, Matt Hughes, and when he will finally step into the cage with St. Pierre. And, oh yeah, the small matter of dispatching Dan Hardy in his own country.
Heavy.com: How is your camp going?
Mike Swick: It’s going good. It’s one of the best camps I’ve had in a long time.
Heavy.com: What’s the vibe around the gym these days?
Mike Swick: It’s good. Really positive. Everyone is training hard, everyone has fights coming up. It’s just an unbelievable camp. It’s so much better than even the last camp, so I guess everything happens for a reason.
Heavy.com: You’re a fighter of a very high calibre. What kind of staff do you employ for your training camps? Do you have multiple coaches for each area of the game?
Mike Swick: I have a couple of boxing coaches. I’ve got Dave Camarillo as my jiu-jitsu coach. I’ve got an overall MMA striking coach, and we’ve got Bob Cook overseeing everything. He’s one of the best cornermen in the business, and he’s our head coach.
And we’ve got a whole team of great fighters. I train right alongside Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Jake Shields and a whole slew of talented up and comers. So it’s just a great camp to be at.
Heavy.com: Dana White keeps claiming that he can make teammates fight each other. What do you and the rest of the AKA fighters think about those claims? Is there any situation where you would fight a teammate?
Mike Swick: It’s just not an issue right now, so there’s no point in thinking about it. We’re all great training partners, and we’ve helped each other get to where we are at today. As far as welterweights go, there’s not a better camp in the world, you know? So we’re just enjoying it and getting better. We’re not thinking about it. There are so many different variables that can come into play, and so many options we have. We can always move weight classes.
I don’t think it’s going to become an issue. If it ever does become an issue, we’ll deal with it then, but there’s no point in worrying or stressing about it right now. We’ve got a lot of big fights coming up, and we’re just getting ready for those fights.
Heavy.com: Have you talked to Cain Velasquez about the fight last weekend? What are his thoughts on the victory?
Mike Swick: He’s doing great, man. He’s a fantastic fighter. There wasn’t one thing that surprised us about that fight. It went exactly as everyone at my gym saw it going. The guy is phenomenal. There’s nobody out there who is going to outwork that guy, for sure. He outworks everyone in our gym, from lightweights to heavyweights. There’s no one at heavyweight who is going to outwork him.
He’s getting better and better with his head movement and striking. He’s got ridiculous power and he never stops coming after you. His wrestling is phenomenal, and he’s just going to destroy everybody. I think he’s going to be the champ.
Heavy.com: Yeah, he’s had that reputation for years as a gym warrior, someone who outlasts everyone during practice, but the Rothwell fight might have been the first time we’ve seen the real Cain Velasquez.
Mike Swick: Yeah, but he fought Cheick Kongo, and Cheick was the best he had ever been in that fight. He was ready to go and he’s getting better and better every time, but Cain completely dominated him. He was down on himself because he didn’t finish him. He got caught a couple of times. But you’ll notice that against Rothwell, he didn’t get caught at all. He worked on his head movement and his foot work. He became OCD on that stuff. And you saw this fight, I don’t think Ben Rothwell landed one solid punch.
He gets better and better. If he sees a weakness, he’s going to work on it over and over and over again.
Heavy.com: You suffered an injury while training for Martin Kampmann, and then Paul Daley beat Kampmann in a big upset. What kind of feelings went through your mind when you saw Daley knock Martin out?
Mike Swick: I knew it was a possibility. Paul Daley is a good striker. I just didn’t think that was the way it was going to go. I figured Martin would take him to the ground and beat him up. I didn’t think he would try to strike with him that much. I wasn’t surprised, but I picked Kampmann to win.
Heavy.com: You’re facing Dan Hardy at UFC 105. What were your initial thoughts when the UFC offered you the bout?
Mike Swick: I was just extremely excited. I thought I was going to have to wait until January to fight, so when they called and said I could jump on a card in November, I said yes before I even knew who the opponent was. I told them it didn’t matter who it was and to put me down for sure, one hundred percent. And the next day they called back and told me I was going to fight Dan Hardy, which was perfect.
Heavy.com: Have you seen anything in Hardy’s game that you feel you can exploit?
Mike Swick: Yeah. I mean, we watch tapes. I always strategize. I see a lot of things with Dan Hardy, and I feel like I’m the better overall fighter. I just have to go in there well-rounded, not make any mistakes and fight my fight. It’s going to be a good night, you know? He’s a dangerous opponent if you make a mistake. He’s a good striker and has very good technique, so we have to make sure I’m on my game and that I do what I’m supposed to do. If that happens, everything is going to go as planned.
Heavy.com: This will be the second time you’ve fought in the UK. You’re fighting Hardy, which means you probably won’t go in as the crowd favorite that night. You’re a very popular fighter with the fans, so do you think it will be strange going in with the crowd rooting against you?
Mike Swick: No, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t pay attention to the crowd when I walk out. The thing about it is, I like English fans and I like England. I don’t blame them. Most countries are very patriotic towards their hometown guy, so I have no blame at all for them rooting for Dan. I think everyone should be doing that, if that’s what they want to do.
I get a lot of emails from England and a lot of support on my Twitter page. It means a lot when I have English fans pulling for me and telling me that they hope I win. I don’t think we should be looked upon as England vs. the USA. I think it should just be one fighter versus another, you know? I think both Dan and I should have fans from both countries rooting for us. Obviously when I’m at the event, it’s going to be predominantly his fans because he’s local there.
It’s just the way it is. It’s not going to hurt my feelings and it’s not going to get into my head. I understand why they boo me, but I don’t think they’re going to boo me when the fight is over. They’re going to get a good fight, they are going to be entertained and they’re going to get a good finish. At the end of the day, I think they’re going to be happy with the fight.
Heavy.com: Have you been told that you’ll get a title shot if you beat Hardy?
Mike Swick: Yeah, that’s what they’re saying. I’m not focused on it right now because I’m just focused on getting a good, dominant win in this fight. I guess the winner is getting GSP, and that’s a dream come true. So I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it’s me. I’ve had ten fights in the UFC and Dan Hardy’s had three. I don’t feel like he deserves to step in right now and get a title shot. I’ve had a long road, I’ve fought a lot of tough guys and I have a ninety percent win ratio. I think it’s mine for the taking, I think I deserve it and I’ve put the time in. I’m just going to go out there on November 14 and get what I feel like I deserve.
Heavy.com: What do you think about the comments Matt Hughes made about you, basically saying that you aren’t in his league?
Mike Swick: I didn’t even hear what he said.
Heavy.com: He insinuated that none of you guys were in his league and sort of laughed off the challenges you and Koscheck have made towards him.
Mike Swick: Well, the only thing I know is that he definitely hasn’t stepped up and fought any of us. He doesn’t want to fight any of the guys from AKA. He didn’t have an opponent when I needed an opponent, he didn’t have an opponent when Koscheck needed an opponent and he didn’t have an opponent when Fitch needed an opponent. Those are all top-level guys which he could fight, and they would be good fights.
As far as not being worthy of fighting him? That’s silly to me. I don’t think he beats any of us. I mean, I don’t think it would even be a fight. He’s a tough guy and he’s a very talented fighter. The reason we wanted to fight him isn’t because we’re picking on him, but because he’s a top-level fighter. He’s one of the highest-ranked fighters and one of the most accomplished fighters in the UFC. It’s out of respect that we wanted to fight him. If he doesn’t think we’re in his league, that’s kind of crazy to me, because I don’t think he could beat any of us. I just don’t think he could beat us. Maybe he knows something we don’t know.
Heavy.com: Is there any fighter, past or present and regardless of company, that you’d really like to face?
Mike Swick: Georges St. Pierre. I just want to fight GSP. That’s the fight I really want and that’s the fight I’m striving for. He’s the king of the division right now. I’m in the sport to push myself and to challenge myself, and I want to fight the best fighters. Right now, Georges St. Pierre is the best fighter, so that’s the guy I want to fight.
Heavy.com: Do you think you match up with him?
Mike Swick:Definitely. He’s got great takedowns. That’s his strong point, and that’s going to be really tough to defend against. I’ve got good takedown defense, but his takedowns are on a different level. It would be a classic striker vs. grappler battle, and I don’t think he’s going to want to stand with me. I think he’s going to go for those takedowns and try to put me on my back. Fortunately for me, the fight starts on the feet and every round starts on the feet, so he’s going to have to get me to the ground consistently throughout the whole fight in order to impose his will. And I’ll do everything I can to stop that and to land those fast punches. I’ve got a lot of reach, so I can hit people when they are still out of their own range. I’m not inexperienced as far as sparring with wrestlers. I spar on a daily basis with Koscheck, Fitch and Jake Shields. All three of those guys are wrestlers and ground guys that are constantly going for takedowns.
If you consider that I have about 36 sparring sessions per fight, and this is my eleventh fight in the UFC, it adds up. I have a lot of experience going with top-level wrestlers. So I’ve gained quite a bit of takedown defense, and I have good reach and good speed. I think that will pose a problem for someone like Georges St. Pierre
Heavy.com: Is there anybody you’d like to thank?
Mike Swick: I want to thank all the fans for their support. I really appreciate it. I also want to plug my official website at http://mikeswick.com and my Twitter page at http://twitter.com/officialswick. I try to post as many updates as possible on there to keep the fans updated.
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