Kevin “Cub” Swanson is one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC today. He’s knocked out five of his last six opponents. He’s ranked #2 in the UFC featherweight rankings, which means that after Chad Mendes gets his shot at the title against José Aldo at UFC 176, Swanson should finally be given his opportunity. But Swanson is also a family man and a thoughtful citizen.
Faithful MMA fans likely know the basic chronology of Swanson’s movie-like life story. Born and raised in Palm Springs, California, Cub went from avid churchgoer to gang life. Then after a stint in juvenile hall, where he underwent a fundamental change in perspective, he started practicing jiu-jitsu while working with children who have cerebral palsy. From there, it wasn’t too long before he threw himself head first into the world of MMA. Since then, he’s amassed a 21-5 record with a dynamic style that always seems to capture the attention of the crowd. After his most recent victory over Jeremy Stephens, it seems that Swanson is also finally receiving the credit and respect he deserves for his skills.
The Hollywood ending he’s still chasing is the title. If Chad Mendes comes up short against Aldo, Swanson might get the opportunity to avenge his loss to Aldo five years ago. As he puts it, “I want to be the guy to dethrone the legend. But fighting for gold is fighting for gold.” So if Mendes comes out victorious against Aldo, Swanson would be just as eager to take him on.
While he waits, however, Swanson is doing much more than just training. He’s giving back.
Talk with any of his students, young or old, at his gym Tru MMA, and you would quickly see how admired he is. The young look up to him for the grand possibilities that he represents and the old for his ability to persevere while maintaining a humbleness not often seen in such successful pro fighters.
Swanson doesn’t yet have a date with the UFC featherweight title. But you can be assured that once he gets it, there will be legions of fans and admirers from the desert cities of Coachella Valley, from Palm Springs to Indio, ready to clear their schedules, plan their trips to the showdown or pre-order the fight on PPV. The combination of Swanson’s explosive power and smooth footwork has made people into believers, but his character and actions outside the cage are making them loyal lifelong fans.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.