Veteran UFC featherweight contender Cub Swanson appeared destined for big things this year after winning one of the best fights of 2016 with a spectacular performance against Dooho Choi.
Instead, he will fight unranked Artem Lobov on Saturday in a bout with enormous risk for Swanson’s championship aspirations.
“Yeah, there’s more to lose for me,” Swanson said on Fox Sports 1 of his UFC Fight Night 108 bout in Nashville, Tennessee. “But If I show I’m a better fighter, then there’s nothing to worry about. I have to go out there and perform.
“The only way to step backward is to have a bad performance. I’m planning on going out there and having a better performance and proving why I should be considered for the next title fight.”
The bout headlines a main card that includes the return of lightweight Al Iaquinta against Diego Sanchez. Bantamweight contender John Dodson will meet Eddie Wineland, and welterweight slugger Mike Perry will look to rebound from his first loss when he faces Jake Ellenberger.
Fox Sports 1 will air the card live at 7 p.m.
Swanson, 33, has won three straight and is on the brink of his first title shot but was left with few options, as champion Jose Aldo is scheduled to face interim champ Max Holloway in a unification bout in June.
Lobov called out Swanson, who obliged.
“I fought most of the people in the top 10, and the UFC doesn’t like to do rematches unless they’re for title fights,” he said. “There are a lot of guys coming up. He was talking crap, and he was talking a lot, so I said, ‘Sure, let’s do it.’”
Lobov is known more as a close friend and training partner of superstar Conor McGregor than for anything he has accomplished as a fighter. He had a good run to the finals of Season 22 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” but is 2-2 against mediocre opposition.
Swanson not only questions Lobov’s readiness to headline an event but also his legitimacy in the UFC.
“I don’t feel like he had the record to be in the UFC,” Swanson said. “There are more deserving people with better records. But he’s here now, and he called me out, so I don’t like him.”
A loss would be devastating to Swanson, and it’s unclear how a victory would help his career.
“Ultimately it’s up to the UFC who they give the title fights to,” he said. “That’s out of my control. The only things I control are winning and putting on a good performance for the fans and being a fan favorite. That takes the pressure off.”
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