Cub Swanson discusses evolution of fighter pay and open scoring debate.


Cub Swanson has seen a lot in his 15 years under the Zuffa umbrella.

The 38-year-old featherweight made his debut in the WEC as a young prospect in 2007 and has been a fan favorite ever since, competing 29 times between runs in the WEC and UFC and racking up 13 post-fight bonuses in the process. Over that time, Swanson has had a front row seat to watch the rise of the UFC from a niche sports property to the all-consuming beast it is today. Swanson has seen it all, and is not surprised.

” I knew it was coming, and because this is the most real sport,” Swanson stated recently in The MMA Hour .

“There are no teams, no balls. It’s just one-on-1, which I absolutely love .”


Swanson is set to join the Fight Wing of the UFC Hall of Fame this summer as part of the promotion’s 2022 class for his iconic win over Doo Ho Choi at UFC 206 in 2016.

It’s an honor Swanson said he never could’ve expected when he first laced up his four-ounce gloves back in 2004. That was the era before The Ultimate Fighter 1, when the sport of mixed martial arts was still on life support in the United States and struggling for acceptance from a cynical mainstream. This is a vast difference to where MMA stands today. Profits have risen year on year, and UFC’s earnings from broadcast rights and valuations are at levels that were once unbelievable.

Swanson stated that UFC fighters can see massive growth in their paychecks, though he is open to admitting there are still many steps ahead.

“My first fight with the company, I made $3,000 [to show] and $3,000 [to win], so [fighter pay] has definitely gone up quite a bit,” Swanson said.

” It makes me giggle, as the men now are starting at what my second or third contract was. So I had to do some work. It’s increasing and I appreciate that. However, I believe that fighters deserve more. I’m always going to think that. I think that we’re the heart and soul of this whole thing. The UFC did a great job in promoting and making it the most popular sport in the entire world.

“But yeah, I think the sport needs to keep evolving,” Swanson continued. I don’t want the sport to stagnate like boxing. Although I absolutely love boxing, I sometimes feel they could be dinosaurs. Like the scoring stuff, I think we can still figure things out. The gloves should be improved. Fighters should be paid higher wages, I believe. I think it’s coming up, but I just always think that we should get paid more regardless.”

The “scoring stuff”, Swanson mentioned, is a reference to the continuing debate over open scoring in the MMA world.

Many fighters have voiced support in recent months for open scoring — a system which makes judges’ scorecards visible to athletes, cornermen, and fans between rounds — and an anonymous surgery of over 200 fighters conducted by The Athletic in 2020 found that nearly 80 percent of responding athletes were in favor of a move to open scoring. Swanson stated that he is a typical fighter, but is open to listening to the opposing side.

” I’d love to hear more arguments on it,” Swanson stated. I want to hear [more].. “I’m in favor of it. But I would like to hear what the opposition thinks. It’s like when the whole weight-cutting thing happened, when we they went to us making weight earlier in the morning, and then the ceremonial weigh-ins, they were they didn’t seem to be as big. And they didn’t find that out until later. These are the kind of issues I like, and I would like to be able to address them before I put my stamp.

“But as of now, I like it. I would like to see more 10-10 rounds and I would like to see more 10-8 rounds. Like, we’re talking about the [Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan 2] fight [at UFC 273] — I think that was a draw. I don’t think anyone deserved that first round, and then I thought it was two apiece after that.

“There was definitely case for [Round 2 to be a 10-8 for Sterling as well],” Swanson continued. So, Swanson continued, “So how do you score [those the same]??” If there were two rounds, one of which was very one-sided and the other was close, but someone clearly won, then those rounds should not be scored in the same .”


As long as MMA continues to evolve, Swanson is happy to still be along for the ride.

The longtime veteran said he recently re-signed with the UFC on a new four-fight deal that he expects to represent his final run in the sport. He’s hoping for a “King of Cali” matchup against fellow WEC veteran Urijah Faber before he hangs up his gloves, likely sometime in 2023. Swanson stated that he will be able to leave satisfied with the legacy of MMA, even though he has never been challenged for a major title.

” The funny thing about the belt is that it is very prestigious,” Swanson stated. “But at the same time, it can be a little bit of a popularity contest, or a lot a bit. And I don’t want to dive into it too much because then people just say ‘you’re crying’ and this and that, but I earned the No. 1 contendership multiple times and I just wasn’t given it, just because there happened to be somebody else that was popular at the time. That was the end of my enthusiasm for the sport and drove me to quit. It was difficult for me to get over it.

“And I, over the years, have come to realize that, from the beginning, my goal when I got into this sport was to be a better human being. It helped me become a man and that is what I’m today. So I’m not really mad about it, because that was my goal. As you go along in this sport and you get higher up, then people put that dream on you, like, ‘Oh, you’re going to fight for the belt, you’ve got to fight for the belt. It’s what matters most, and it’s the only thing in this sport that really matters.

” The truth is that I was able to make it into the Hall of Fame. I have touched the lives of so many people and am now a better person because of my journey.” Swanson said. “And I don’t need a belt to say that I’m validated, because I accomplished what I was trying to accomplish.”