After four straight victories in the UFC's welterweight division, Mike "Quick" Swick was fighting for a title shot against Dan Hardy at UFC 105 in Manchester, England this past November. Unfortunately things didn't work in Swick's favor that night, and when it was all said and done, "The Outlaw" had his hand raised at the end of the bout.
In this exclusive interview, Swick sits down with FiveKnuckles.com's Mitch Ciccarelli to discuss the matchup, his desire to rematch Hardy, his Internet "beef" with Ben Saunders and other interesting topics.
Mitch Ciccarelli: You were seemingly one victory away from earning a title shot against welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre; however, Dan Hardy stole that title shot away from you with a unanimous decision victory at UFC 105. Now that it's all said and done, do you feel Hardy really deserves the title shot after beating you or do you think he hasn't really earned it yet?
Mike Swick: You know, we both went out there and fought, and he won. But I don't think he's put the time in to get a title shot in the UFC, and I really want to get a rematch with him. I don't want to make any excuses about the fight, but I'm 100 percent confident that I'm the better fighter, and I want to prove it with a rematch [against Hardy].
Mitch Ciccarelli: Most seemed to pit you as the favorite against Hardy heading into the fight. Do you think you underestimated him a little bit?
Mike Swick: I didn't underestimate him, and if you look at some of the exchanges, even after I got caught in the second, I mean, I won a lot of the exchanges in the second and third round. I was trying to chase him down because he's a counter-fighter, kind of like I am, and one of us had to get out of our element because if we both stood there and tried to counter each other, we would have just stared at each other. So I was the one that kind of hard to push for the fight. I usually don't fight the way I fought in that fight, and when I came in, he would just time that hook perfectly, and I never fully recovered from when he caught me with that left combination in the second round.
He caught me right on my jaw and rocked me pretty good, so I mean, it is what it is, but you can look at the exchanges after that, and I landed numerous exchanges even after being rocked. He landed the significant blows that caused the most damage, and he deserved the win, but it's just one of those fights where it's hard to swallow because I feel like I'm the better fighter, and I feel under different circumstances, if we fought again, I would win nine out of 10 times. No discredit to him because I think he's a great guy and a great fighter, but it's just a tough one to swallow, you know?
Mitch Ciccarelli: Hardy is notorious for his mental warfare tactics. Did he get in your head a little bit? Or more importantly, did you feel added pressure with it being a fight to earn the title shot?
Mike Swick: There were a lot of factors, but I don't want to get into anything that could cause excuses or anything like that. The bottom line is that we both showed, and he won, and I'm not taking anything away from that. As far as the mental aspect, nah. He definitely wasn't in my head. There was nothing that he did that mentally phased me. I'm a pretty strong fighter mentally, so I don't think I've ever been broken or had something effect me mentally before a fight.
Mike Swick: Winning this fight is super important; I don't like losing. I hate losing that's why it still hurts so bad after my last fight, but I have an opportunity now to get back on the winning track. It's no easy break. I'm fighting a very tough guy who is a top contender in the weight class, and I'm taking it on short notice, so it's definitely no easy break, but then again it poses a big challenge, and that's what I like. That's what keeps me going and keeps me training hard. So taking a fight like this on short notice against Paulo Thiago is going to bring the best out of me.
It's going to make me train hard, and it's one of those fights where if everything works out and I win the fight, I can sit back and feel really good about the sacrifices I've made and how hard I've trained in such a short period of time and went out there and did it, you know? It's not an easy task and it's not an easy fight, but that's the kind of stuff that keeps me motivated and makes me who I am. That's the reason I'm a fighter. I'm not here for the paydays. I'm a fighter because it's challenging. [MMA] is one of the most challenging sports in the world, and I love it.
Mitch Ciccarelli: Where do you think your biggest advantage will be against Thiago?
Mike Swick: I mean my biggest advantage against Thiago is going to be the striking, but I'm coming in fully aware that he's a good striker as well. He doesn't have as many knockouts as me, but we've seen him knock people down. We've seen him knockout Koscheck. So he has some power in his hands, and he's an unorthodox kind of loopy striker. He's one of those guys that if you underestimate his standup, you're going to be on your back wondering what happened. I'm going in there well aware that he is a good striker, but I do feel that is my strongest attribute against him.
I have no problems going to the ground as well. I've been working my jiu-jitsu a lot with Jake Shields, and I know Thiago is a jiu-jitsu black belt and really solid on the ground, but I feel like I'm really good on the ground too, and this fight could be a good opportunity to show my ground skills. But, obviously, I know my strength is going to be on the feet in this fight and that's where I'm going to try to keep it for the most part.
Mitch Ciccarelli: Do you think a "quick" victory over Thiago will place you right back into title contention or do you think the loss to Hardy has set you back to square one in terms of the rankings?
Mike Swick: I'm not too worried about a title shot; I'm just worried about getting on the winning track. If I had to look past this fight, I'm more concerned with Hardy than GSP. If I were to win this fight and get a choice between a title shot or Dan Hardy, I would choose Dan Hardy. I want that rematch, and I want to go out there and have a better performance and perform to my ability. That's kind of what my goal is so it all leads with this fight. I have to go out there and do what I have to do to get this win and then more opportunities will come.
If I don't take this fight seriously and I lose, then that's going to be my second loss in a row. So that's not going to be good.
Mitch Ciccarelli:What are some improvements you feel you have made since your last fight that you will be looking to showcase in this fight?
Mike Swick: I've been training hard and mostly looking to just get back into shape. After the Hardy fight, I took some time off, and I didn't expect to fight again until April. So I was actually about to leave to go to Brazil, and then I got the call [from the UFC] so this is one of the few times where I've actually taken a break and got away from the gym for a bit.
I had two back-to-back fight camps, I was planning to fight Kampmann [at UFC 103], and I trained 12 weeks solid for that and then had to back out of that fight. I got right back into the gym and trained another seven weeks for Hardy, and I was just really burnt out, and I crushed my body. That whole process took a lot out of me so I took some time off and refocused, so this fight kind of caught me off guard. After accepting the fight, I just jumped back into the gym, and I've just been constantly working on my ground game and working on my defensive for submissions and getting in shape as fast as possible.
Mitch Ciccarelli: Two of your teammates have already fought Thiago, although Koscheck was a surprising upset but Fitch ended up out-working Thiago for a decision victory. Obviously you and Fitch are different fighters, but are you looking to follow a similar game plan against Thiago?
Mike Swick: As far as if we grapple, I want to do the same things that Fitch did because Fitch dominated him on the ground. It's going to be a completely different fight I think because I'm going to take it a little bit different to where Fitch took it. I'm going to keep it on the feet, that's where my focus is going to be and working on a lot of different things with my striking. Trying to get in and keeping my hands up, and I've been studying his tapes, so I think it's going to be a much different fight than the one Fitch had with him but with the same outcome because I want my hand raised at the end.
I want to be the first guy to stop him. I really want to be the first guy to finish Thiago. I think that would prove something.
Mitch Ciccarelli:I hear there is some tension between you and Ben Saunders. After you TKO'd him at UFC 99, apparently, there was some sort of verbal online-sparring session between you two on the UG? Any comments on that or was it blown out of proportion?
Mike Swick: I don't know what he was doing, man. We got along fine the last time I talked to him. You know, we fought and I have a lot of respect for Ben Saunders. I respected him a lot before the fight too, and we went out there and had a good fight, and I went back to the locker room and I like the guy so it's not like we're enemies or anything. So after the fight, I went and hung out with him in his locker room. We finished watching the fights in his room actually on the TV and everything was fine.
Next thing I know, as soon as he beat Marcus Davis, he started saying all this stuff about how he was just envisioning that it was me and that's how he won, and he wants a rematch and said something about me disrespecting him after the fight. I was just caught completely off guard, but apparently, he said that somebody from my camp—which the only guys who were with me were Fitch and Bob Cook, and they would never talk trash on anyone—but he said somebody said something about him getting knocked out and then we all laughed, which for sure would never happen. I mean, I'm all about respect, and I've never been one to do something like tha. So it caught me completely off guard, and I don't know if he thought it was us and it was someone else saying those comments or what, but I do know for a fact that we didn't say that.
I didn't laugh, I never would have laughed about something like that. I don't know if he's making it up or if he actually heard something, but he's like all mad and wanting a rematch. So I basically said on the internet, "Let's do it, then. That's fine with me, I have no problems fighting you again." Then he never said anything else. Honestly, all I know is that I had nothing but respect for the guy, and even when he was fighting Marcus Davis, I was rooting for him and saying good things about him. I like Davis too, so it was kind of tough, but I've done nothing but give him respect, so it completely caught me off guard that he was actually mad at me.
Mike Swick: I wish the best for Saunders, but I think that's a bad matchup for him. I just think that Kampmann's striking and his overall game is going to be too much for Saunders. Kampmann is a very tough dude, and he got caught by Daley and got caught up in the punching game. But overall, he's a very tough guy. They both are. But if I had to predict, I would have to give the edge to Kampmann in that fight.
Mitch Ciccarelli: Would you be interested in fighting the winner or do you have no interest in a rematch with Saunders considering you've already finished him? You said before that you wouldn't mind fighting him again, but is that a fight that would really interest you?
Mike Swick: I mean, I'll fight whoever. The thing is I don't see it going any differently [if I fought Saunders again], and I want to challenge myself and fight the best fighters in the sport. So whoever the challenge is, whoever the tough fighter is, that's who I want to fight. If it's Saunders, then it's Saunders, and if it's Kampmann, then it's Kampmann. But I mean, if I had a choice, it's going to be Dan Hardy. That's who I want to fight. There is no one that I want to fight more than that guy right now.
I don't want any easy fights either, or fights where I just go in there and win. I like challenges, and I like fights where I know the guy can beat me if I do something wrong or if I play his game. So I have to go out there, and I have to implement my gameplan and make sure that I don't make any mistakes. Those are the kind of fights that keep me going and that I can look back on and be proud of. I can say "wow, I stepped up and did what I had to do and I won" versus fighting a guy that I can easily beat and win. That doesn't do anything for me.
Mitch Ciccarelli: Do you think Hardy has any legitimate chance of dethroning St. Pierre, or do you think that overall, it's a really bad matchup for him?
Mike Swick: Man, you know, the thing is, I know that everybody says that, and it's like I know a lot more about the situation than everybody else, but I feel the same way. I don't think there is a chance, man. I really don't. I mean [Hardy] could catch him with those punches, and he hits pretty hard, but I just don't think GSP is going to go in there and play that game. I think GSP is going to go in there and take him straight to the mat, and I think GSP's ground game is going to be too much for him.
Mitch Ciccarelli: There are some rumors that St. Pierre may move up to middleweight permanently pretty soon. What do you think about this? Do you think the welterweight division would be wide open, or would someone else dominate over the division?
Mike Swick: Well, I think someone from my gym is going to be the champ. I think it's just a matter of time. Whether it's me or my teammates, I will be happy for whoever. The good thing about my team is that all the guys that are doing good right now are all like AKA grown fighters. We don't have guys that came in after they already established themselves and are just training with us now. It's like me, Fitch, Kos, Cain, and all the guys we have right now that are doing good in the UFC were all built by AKA since the beginning.
It's going to be really cool when someone brings that title back to the gym. We've got Cain fighting Nogueira, and now Fitch and Kos are right there. So I think it's going to be a big year for us.
Mitch Ciccarelli:Who's your favorite guy to spar with at AKA? Obviously, there are tons of legit guys to choose from, but who pushes you the most in training?
Mike Swick: In two separate ways, I would say Jon Fitch and Jake Shields. Jon Fitch has gotten so much better, man; especially with his stand-up, so when I'm sparring with Jon it's just a war. I sparred three rounds with him today, and it was just a war on all levels— on the ground and on the feet. Fitch really pushes me hard, and we have crazy sparring sessions. It's almost like a fight. It's almost like we just had a fight in the UFC after we finish sparring each other.
And then with Jake Shields, he goes for the takedown so solidly, and he comes at me so hard that it creates a huge challenge trying to avoid the takedown. He is just absolutely relentless with his takedowns, and then obviously on the ground, he is just one of the best I've ever rolled with, so it's very competitive rolling with him.
Mike Swick: Oh, I don't know, man. I honestly don't know and I mean, those are both big wins. Daley is new on the UFC scene, but every guy he's beaten was a tough guy, and he's just exploded onto the scene. So, yeah, it would be a solid win for both guys. Either one could make a case for a title shot, so it's going to be very interesting.
Mitch Ciccarelli: We've just hit the year 2010 and you had a good year in 2009 other than the one loss to Hardy. What are some resolutions you have for this year to ensure a more successful year than you had in 2009?
Mike Swick: I just want to stay healthy and fight as much as I can. I love what I'm doing. I'm living my dream, so I just want to keep it alive and continue doing what I love.
Mitch Ciccarelli:What are your thoughts on lightweight champion B.J Penn's dominance over the 155-pound division and rumors of him moving back up to welterweight?
Mike Swick: Oh. it's awesome. I think B.J Penn is best at lightweight. He seems unstoppable there, but the problem is he's beating everybody, and it's hard to set up a matchup for him. It would be cool if he goes to any weight class. He's known for that. He's fought a lot of heavyweights before, too, so it's nothing new to him.
Mitch Ciccarelli: Would you ever consider moving back up to 185 pounds, or are you going to stay permanently at welterweight?
Mike Swick: I don't think so. I don't think I'll go back up to middleweight because I'm not even a huge welterweight. I have plenty of room to grow here, and I feel really comfortable at this weight. At middleweight, the guys are just too big, man. Guys are going into the ring at like 195-200 pounds, and I walk around at like 180-185 pounds.
Mitch Ciccarelli: UFC 109 is a pretty solid card, in my opinion at least. Do you mind if I can get your thoughts on some of the other matchups on the card as far as predictions are concerned?
Mike Swick: Yeah, sure.
Mike Swick: Oh man, I don't know, I'm horrible at predictions. I'm just horrible at them, but I mean I think it's going to be a great matchup. I'll go in like stylistically about them, but I hate picking winners and stuff, especially since I know everybody in this sport. But you know that's a great matchup, Trigg's got the wrestling, and Serra's got that Jiu-Jitsu game, so it can be very interesting.
Mike Swick: That's another good one. Nate seems unstoppable lately and is doing so good, but then Sonnen did great against Okami. That's a very interesting matchup, and I think it's going to be a war. I think Nate's standup is just getting better and better and that could play a factor in this fight. Obviously, his ground game is really good as well too. I give Marquardt the edge in this fight, but I think it's going to be a war ,and I think it's going to be a great fight.
Mike Swick: Yeah I do, because Demian Maia is just phenomenal on the ground, and now you have Dan Miller coming out in interviews saying that he doesn't mind going to the mat with Maia. I think he wants to go to the mat to kind of prove himself against Demian Maia, and I think it could turn out to be a really good, like you said, kinetic chess game on the ground. It's going to be interesting for the true MMA fans that really understand the ground game.
Mitch Ciccarelli: And last but certainly not least, the battle of Hall of Famers between Randy Couture and Mark Coleman. What are your thoughts on this battle and do you think this is a legitimate main event for a pay-per-view?
Mike Swick: I think it's a great pay-per-view main event, and it's history in the making. You have two Hall of Famers fighting each other. It was supposed to happen years ago, and it's happening now and I think it's going to be a great fight. I think they are going to go out there and fight there hearts out. Mark Coleman really surprised me against Stephan Bonnar [at UFC 100]. there was talk of him being too old, and how he lost it, and then he went out there against Stephan Bonnar and looked really good and won that fight. So yeah, I think it's going to be a great fight.
Mitch Ciccarelli: Alright Mike, well I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. If there's anyone you'd like to thank or anything you'd like to say, the floor is yours.
Mike Swick: Yeah, I just want to thank all my sponsors and my web page at mikeswick.com, and thanks for the interview man, and thanks to all my fans out there. I appreciate all the support I'm getting on my twitter page—Twitter.com/officialswick. Thank you guys for all the support, and I'm going to give you guys a great fight on Feb. 6.
This article was also featured on fiveknuckles.com.