It's fair to say Mike Swick is on the verge of something big.
After losing a hard fought decision to a physically superior Yushin Okami at UFC 69 as a middleweight, he made the trek down to the welterweight level and has found a wealth of success in the process.
So far it is the best career decision he's made to date.
The American Kickboxing Academy product has rattled off three consecutive victories at the 170-pound limit over formidable contenders Josh Burkman, Marcus Davis, and Jonathan Goulet.
As a result, he's knocking on the door for a potential title shot.
An impressive win over the young and hungry Ben "Killa B" Saunders at the upcoming UFC 99 event would go a long way in convincing UFC President Dana White and matchmaker extraordinaire Joe Silva that he deserves the opportunity to fight for the strap in the near future.
First thing is first: Take care of business on June 13 in Cologne, Germany and let the chips fall where they may.
"Quick" took some time out his hectic schedule to share his thoughts on life inside and outside fighting including his poker game, Maury Povich and last but not least, Ben Saunders.
Check it out.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I understand that outside of fighting you're quite the poker player. What I don't get is how a guy nicknamed "Quick" Swick could ever sit at a poker table for hours upon hours. Explain this dynamic to me.
Mike Swick: I think what draws me to poker is the strategy and the thinking and reading people. It's more of like a rehab. It's real relaxing. It keeps you thinking but you're not getting punched in the face. It's kind of a cool little game to play and I've been playing a long time.
I'm with (sponsored by) Full Tilt. I play online more than anything so it's not as boring because I can multitask with doing other things at the same time. The dealer goes a lot faster online than it does if you're sitting at a table. If you play live for high stakes it's not too boring. It's pretty interesting.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I want to ask you about your AKA teammates Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck. How much of an advantage is it to have two top ten welterweights in your gym with you on a daily basis?
Mike Swick: It's amazing to have those guys. Not only do we have Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch but Jake Shields as well. He's another top ten guy that spars with us. Getting ready for this fight just like all my fights it's amazing to having guys like Fitch and Kos and Shields because they're better than anyone I'm fighting at this point. We use each other to help. We're all good at different things. We go round after round with each other.
I'll go one round with Fitch, my second round with a fresh Kos, and a third round with a fresh Shields. It's like, you can't win, none of us can win because we're always going in fresh on each other and it's just great training. Everyone brings so many good attributes to the table and we're constantly learning and helping each other out so I couldn't have a better training team, especially in my division.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): For the record, would you consider fighting either guy for a #1 contender spot or with a championship on the line?
Mike Swick: We get asked that question all the time. It's not something we think about until it happens. We use each other for training right now. We have the best training partners we could possibly have for our division so we are using them.
There are plenty of opponents for us to fight. None of us are in a position where we are about to fight each other or anything so it's kind of one of those things where you're just not thinking about it until it comes up. We're all fighters and if that time comes we'll have to address it at the time.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I want to know what you and your AKA teammates do outside the gym together. I heard a rumor about some of you watching a bunch of Maury Povich episodes. Care to elaborate?
Mike Swick: Well, me and Fitch used to be roommates a few years ago. So after our fighter training we would always come home and eat and it was always the time Maury Povich was on.
It was the same thing everyday. A girl would go on stage and line up like six guys and then they would test them all to see if they were the baby's dad. After three times none of the guys were and then she'd start crying. We would get so pissed at Maury because he would always comfort the girls instead of the guys.
The guys are always jumping up and down and sharing how upset they are about the fact that they were thinking it was their kid and having to take care of it. Maury's telling them to calm down and comforting the girl. We always thought that was jacked up that he would comfort the girl that had like six guys on stage and they still didn't know who the daddy was.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I suppose we should discuss some MMA now. There is no appropriate transition here so let's go back to your last fight at middleweight against Yushin Okami. What did you learn from that loss? What was your thought process for wanting to drop to 170?
Mike Swick: I've been wanting to drop since the (Joe) Riggs fight. Right now I'm in the sickest shape of my life. I've got less than 5% body fat and I'm walking around at only 177. I'm the leanest I've ever been. Even at middleweight I was really lean. I could never get big enough to make the weight of 184 at the weigh-ins let alone people cutting to make weight.
They offered me Riggs which was a huge fight so I couldn't turn it down. Then after I beat Riggs it was moving me up the chain. Then they offered me (David) Loiseau and I couldn't turn that down. I just figured I would keep pushing forward until something happened and if I lose then I'll drop. I beat Loiseau which was the #1 contender so I was kind of waiting for a shot at the title.
I took the Okami fight which should have been my last fight before the title shot. I lost the fight so it seemed like a great time to drop down then.
I learned a lot from the fight. I felt in good shape. He was just big and he had really good positioning. I almost knocked him out in the second. In the third round I reversed him, I passed his guard, and I ended the fight on top punching him. He had nothing left. It wasn't the worst loss in the world.
It just sucks because there were a few things I could have done differently and came out ahead in that fight. It came down to the third round. I knew he was going for the takedown. I didn't defend it how I should have and when I got on bottom I didn't do what I should have done.
Even though he's a much bigger opponent and he's the #1 contender right now and definitely a tough opponent I know I could have one that fight. That's what kind of sucks the most. Either way it was a good time to drop and here I am at welterweight.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Your next fight is against Ben Saunders at UFC 99. I want to know how you come up with a game plan to attack a guy you've never fought before. Between you and your coaches what is the process that takes place?
Mike Swick: I fight kind of the same with everyone if I'm healthy and my arms are good. I had a problem before but now my arms are great, my elbows, my joints, everything. I have no fear of throwing my hands. When that's the case that's what I'm going to do. It's no secret.
If you look at all my fights. I had a couple boring fights. I'm not one to sit and make excuses and try to get pity from everyone, but there's a reason that everything happened. When you look at my fights. I've had 21 amateur fights and about 16 pro fights. I've had very exciting fights my entire career except for that one bump in my career. There's probably a good reason.
I want to make sure the fans know. Don't judge me by two fights out of my thirty-something fights. I plan to do what I always do. I'm going to put the pressure on him. I'm going to throw my hands. I'm going to throw everything. I feel like I can put the pressure on him in any area of the fight.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Have you watched a bunch of tape on Saunders as well?
Mike Swick: Oh, definitely. We always watch tape and come up with a good strategy. All my training partners are bigger than him (Saunders). The smallest training partner I have that I've been working right now is Fitch. If anyone knows how he trains he's like 190 pounds or so. He's huge. Not only that but he's strong.
I got a few guys that are like 6'3" or 6'4" that are kickboxers I've been working with and then all our middleweights on the team. I've been sparring with a lot of guys that are a lot bigger and stronger than him. It's been really pushing me hard and keeping me up to task.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I came across a recent quote from Saunders he said during an interview. He said the following:
"I don't believe his (Swick's) hand speed will be that big of a difference, especially with the lack of a reach advantage, which he has had in almost all his other fights. It means I can hit him without getting hit and close the distance easier than him. He needs to be worried about my blades." - FightHype.com
Do you have a response about his ‘blades' and his outlook on the fight?
Mike Swick: The thing about it is that I've heard all this stuff before. I have a lot of respect for Ben. I think he's a real tough opponent. I think he's very scrappy but I've heard this all before. Everyone that has ever fought me said they were going to kick my ass and that they were faster and stronger than me.
(Jonathan) Goulet said the same thing. He said he's faster than me but I managed to hit him three times before he even knew I was there and that changed the whole outcome of the fight.
If he (Saunders) thinks he is going to hit me without getting hit I can't believe it. If you look at all the fights I've ever had nobody has hit me without getting hit ever in my entire career. I've hit people without getting hit but I've never been hit and not been able to hit someone back. When I do hit people I get a reaction.
I'm not one of these guys that goes toe-to-toe for three solid rounds and we just keep punching each other in the face and looking at each other. If I land I get a reaction. If he thinks my speed is not going to be an issue and he's not caring about it then that's good for me. I hope he underestimated that and I hope he doesn't care.
I think speed kills. I think it's one of the best attributes of fighting. If I'm sparring at the gym and when I'm fighting in the ring when I can hit somebody and they don't see it coming and they don't block it and I get absolutely no resistance from them coming in and landing those shots I think that's great. If he wants to underplay that and say it's not great then maybe he has a better strategy and things he can do to me that are better. For me, being able to hit someone fast and hard is a huge asset to fighting.
For him to say that I'm not going to have reach, so I'm going to have a disadvantage. He's had reach on every single person he's ever fought. He has been the biggest guy every single time, but it's not like he's knocking everybody out with his hands. Now he's fighting one of the taller guys he's ever fought. It just doesn't really make a lot of sense to me.
I'm excited. I like his optimism. I hope he comes out healthy and strong and 100%. There is nothing I want more than to mix it up and bang with him. Like I said, if he doesn't think my speed is going to be an issue I definitely beg to differ and I'm set to prove it.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you go into this fight looking for the first round knockout then?
Mike Swick: It's never like I want to get a thirty second knockout. I'll take it if it's there. When people see me flurry like that and go for the fast strikes, I mean, if they start not landing or become ineffective I'm going to back away and engage in something else or move around. I'm not just going to continue punching if it's not working. It's not an all or nothing situation.
I can continuously do that (if I need to). It's not like I'm going to gas out. My shape is incredible. I can come in flurry after flurry for fifteen minutes if I have to. If it's effective and I land the right punches and I hurt him I'll finish him off. If not, I'll disengage and set up another flurry or come in with something else.
If I can get the knockout fast I'll go for it for sure. If not, no big deal. I don't mind showcasing some more of my skills. I don't think I've shown a lot of what I've been working on in my past few fights. If I can have a little bit of a longer fight with him and showcase a little more of my ability that would be fine with me. I would have no problem with that.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you think an impressive performance over Saunders gets you a title shot? Do you feel like you would deserve one at that point?
Mike Swick: I really do hope if I have an impressive performance I get a big fight. I definitely hope that. I've worked really hard. Like I said I've had a couple bad fights. I feel like I've made up for it and shown people there's a reason for that. You can look at my record and see, both amateur and pro, have all been exciting.
A win over Saunders would put me at 9 - 1 in the UFC, which I think is a good record. I think I would definitely be entitled to a big fight. If they give me a title fight I would love it. Obviously that would be the best outcome, but if not, just a big fight would be great. Something where I have a lot to gain out of the fight versus a lot to lose.
When I fight Saunders, and he's a very tough opponent, but it's no surprise I have a lot more to lose than he does. I took a fight with Goulet. He's a tough opponent. He's very talented and very strong. Again, it that fight I had everything to lose and I didn't have a whole lot to gain. He had everything to gain.
I'm kind of in the position where I've accepted two fights in a row where I've given other people the opportunity to make their names and not myself so much. I feel like a dominant performance should put me in that seat and I should be able to fight somebody where I have something to gain.
I'm training so hard and putting so much sacrifice into my career and the sport. I want to have a big fight. I'm going out there June 13 to show that I deserve it. And if I don't deserve it then I don't. I don't want anything I don't deserve.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Mike that's all I had for you. Is there anything you'd like to pass along to your fans or any sponsors you'd like to thank?
Mike Swick: MikeSwick.com. and I just want to say that I really appreciate all the fan support and all the support I've gotten throughout my career. It's a dream come true. I started out as a small town Texas boy with a dream. No matter how many people told me I couldn't pursue my goals I just kept chucking forward and today I'm living my dream. I appreciate where I'm at and I appreciate the opportunities I've been given. I'm just working hard to continue chasing that dream and get those big fights.
It means a lot to me all the e-mails I get from the fans. All the inspiring e-mails from people who have been inspired by me, and how they're not listening to the negativity in their lives, and accomplishing their goals as well. I think it's great to pass on that positive energy and just ignore the negativity and the critics and the negative people because all that's going to do is slow you down.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Well said Mike. Thanks again for the time. Best of luck to you in the future.
Mike Swick: Thanks man.
Derek Bolender is staff writer for InsideFights.com. He is syndicated at CBSSports.com and FoxSports.com. You can also follow him at Twitter.com/DerekMMAWriter and on Facebook. Look for future articles from him on MMAmania.com.