Nearly three years ago, Cub Swanson and Doo Ho Choi engaged in a battle for the ages.
The two featherweights swung for the fences from bell to bell, each of them having their moments to shine. At the end of three rounds, Swanson’s hand was raised, and Choi was left with his first loss since joining the UFC in 2013.
UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal is this weekend!
Three title fights are scheduled for UFC Fight Island on Saturday, July 11. Order the PPV now on ESPN+.
Swanson and Choi didn’t just walk away with an extra $50,000 each — the fight was named “Fight of the Year” at the World MMA Awards and by ESPN as well.
But while Swanson may have won the first time, he’s not opposed to a rematch with the “Korean Superboy.”
“I think us fighting again is inevitable,” Swanson told John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock.
The question of when the two will cross paths again is still without an answer.
“He just hasn’t been very active, so I don’t know what his situation is,” Swanson said. “I don’t know if he’s been in the gym or what’s been going on. So, as far as his end, I’m not sure what he’s up to.”
Choi dropped his second-straight fight when he returned to the UFC in January of 2018 against Jeremy Stephens. Engaging in another back-and-forth bout, Choi was dropped and finished in the second round, the first stoppage loss of his career.
Since then, “Korean Superboy” has been off of the radar.
Injuries have been the main cause of his most recent hiatus. The 28-year-old also still has yet to serve his mandatory military service imposed by South Korea, which will again force him to take a long break between bouts.
With UFC Busan coming up, the UFC is reportedly interested in getting Choi on the card, according to John Hyon Ko. The opponent, however, remains to be determined.
Swanson says that if he can handle business against dangerous rising star Kron Gracie at UFC Tampa, he’d be interested in making the trip.
“If I go out there and, and piece Kron up like I plan on doing, then I’d love to get another fight,” Swanson said. “And if that was a fight that they wanted to put together, I wouldn’t mind jumping in another one.”
Cub Swanson vs. Kron Gracie
First, of course, he has to emerge from his bout with Gracie relatively unscathed.
Now accepting of his role as the grizzled veteran who has to weed out the weak in the UFC’s featherweight division, Swanson draws some parallels between his fight with Choi and his upcoming bout with Gracie.
“Superboy was a little bit more polished all around, but Kron is definitely more dangerous in one aspect,” Swanson said. “As far as there being hype on somebody and them wanting to test themselves early, I definitely think he’s stepping up into tougher competition. So I’m glad to be that opponent.”
Preparing for that “one aspect” has been the focal point of Swanson’s camp. Working on his jiu-jitsu to be able to hang with Gracie turned out to be a bit more difficult than he anticipated though.
Swanson has spent time working with his original jiu-jitsu coach. He’s also put work in at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu.
But before he could settle into these spots, Swanson experienced some of the politics of the sport when he was kicked out of multiple gyms in the leadup to his fight against Gracie.
It wasn’t the first time he’s had problems of this nature, though. In fact, Swanson’s issues with competing in jiu-jitsu stem from the original meeting between himself and Gracie at the US Open in 2003.
“One day I ended up going against Kron in a jiu-jitsu match and I felt like I was cheated and I wasn’t given any points. And so I lost by one point and I just felt like I was robbed,” Swanson said. “I was upset about it. And then somebody wrote an article on how Kron beats a Pan-Am champ. And so they were kind of rubbing it in in my eyes and that really pissed me off.
“So I wrote the guy a bad email and then I basically was told through the grapevine that if I didn’t shut up about it, that I wouldn’t be allowed to compete in jiu-jitsu tournaments anymore. So from then on, I pretty much stopped doing jiu-jitsu and focused on MMA and then you know, 15 years later here we are.”
The history between the two adds a bit of fuel to the fire, but this fight is by no means a grudge match. Swanson has a tremendous amount of respect for his opponent in the co-main event of UFC Tampa.
“When I started doing jiu-jitsu, I was a huge Gracie fan because jiu-jitsu pretty much got me from — it changed my life,” Swanson said. “It got me on the right path in life, so I was so involved in it, so mentally wrapped around it. I watched all the Gracies in action. Yeah, I just love the whole storyline of the family … Honestly, it is an honor to fight Kron in the Octagon.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.