Friday, March 30, 2007

Interview: Swick discusses UFC 69, Okami and going home

By Jatinder Dhoot

With UFC 69 rapidly approaching, Houston is ready to welcome Mike Swick back home. Fighting in front of his family and friends will be a huge thrill for the Houston native, but Japanese sensation Yushin Okami will be seeking to spoil the night for Swick and his faithful.

In a recent interview, Swick gave his thoughts on what challenges Okami will present and how he plans to counter them. The middleweight contender also sheds some light on what it will be like fighting in his hometown, why he considers his last victory to be like a loss and how he has grown since his last bout.

Q: What are you working on specifically for Okami?
MS: I'm definitely working on my cardio and strength, wrestling takedowns and takedown defense and my strikes. I'm looking to make this a standing fight.

Q: What's the game plan for this fight?
MS: With Okami, the game plan is not to get taken down. (But) if I do get taken down, to work submissions or get back to my feet, or reverse, because obviously where I don't want to be with him is on my back.

Q: What unique challenges does Okami pose to you executing your game plan?
MS: The only difference is that Okami has a different style of takedown in that he likes to use his southpaw stance and trip the leg when he comes in for the body lock and takedown, which is different than Kos (Josh Koscheck) and (Jon) Fitch. So I've had a couple of southpaws just work that on me over and over and over again so I can avoid that, because I don't have a lot of experience defending the southpaw shot, especially the way he trips the leg like he does. It makes it really difficult to sprawl out because I usually sprawl the opposite way of that. If I sprawl the way I usually sprawl, my front leg, which is my left leg, will be the last thing to sprawl out and that's the first thing that he hooks. So I've got to be very careful with that.

Q: What have you improved the most in the past few months?
MS: I'd say more than anything probably my ground game, but also my hand speed and explosiveness as well. I would say my boxing and my ground game are the few things that have improved the most since the Loiseau fight.

Q: Was defeating a tough opponent in David Loiseau in your last fight a big confidence booster for you?
MS: It wasn't really a confidence booster at all. Actually, I almost took it as a loss. I felt really bad after that fight and felt I had a very bad performance and beat myself up about it. I learned I'm definitely not going to make the same mistakes I made going into that fight.

Q: What were you disappointed about?
MS: First of all, I didn't do what I should have coming into the fight. So I didn't train as long as I should have in areas that I should have in terms of my muscular endurance. I was playing catch-up because I was doing a lot of PR and outside stuff that I shouldn't have been doing, and then toward the end I felt as though I was behind, so I trained too soon up until the fight. I didn't give myself adequate time to recover, so when the third round came in, I think my body just gave out on me. It's a horrible feeling to have in the middle of a fight, especially against such a tough opponent as David Loiseau. I mean, your muscular endurance runs out, and your body starts giving out on you, so I'm doing everything in my power to take measures to not let that happen again.

Q: You were hoping for a title shot after Loiseau? How do you feel about not getting it, and how did this fight with Okami come about?
MS: I think there's some title shots already lined up, and since I can't get a title shot, I'm obviously going to fight whoever they tell me. It doesn't really concern me about the title shot. It's going to come when it comes. I'm not letting that cloud my mind right now. I'm just focused on getting fights and winning them; otherwise, worrying about a title shot would be pointless. We looked at some tough opponents, and Okami is a tough opponent who's 19-3 overall and 3-0 in the UFC and on a tear. We just figured it'd be a great opportunity to fight a tough opponent and challenge ourselves. He's not a joke opponent.

Q: What are your thoughts on Okami's fights in the UFC?
MS: I think he's very tough and has good cardio. He likes to push the pace in the third. He starts out very methodical and slow and passive, he tends to let his opponents wear out a little bit, and when they get tired and mentally frustrated, he picks it up in the third and usually gets the TKO by ground and pound.

Q: How is training different for this fight compared to camps in the past?
MS: This is the longest I've ever trained for a fight. We trained extremely hard over 12 weeks because I was going to fight on the Ohio card on March 3. Because this event is in Texas, and I'm from Houston and the hometown boy, we decided to postpone it (laughs).

Q: How excited are you to be fighting in Houston?
MS: Oh, it's a dream come true. I always dreamed of fighting in a big stadium in Houston where I'm from, I just never thought it would happen because MMA was banned there when I first started. So now it's actually happening.

Q: Will you perform better because of the hometown support?
MS: I think so. This is my fan base since I first started, and they're just happy I made it to where I am today. It's not like these guys are going to turn on me if I come up short. I feel like they're genuine fans and family and friends, so I don't have that much pressure as far as I'm concerned. I just want to perform great for them and give them a great show. If there was any time to perform great, it's going to be this time.

Q: When do you slow down your training as you approach the fight?
MS: The last week before the fight, usually, I'll start tapering down and get more focused on my recovery and get ready for the fight.


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