Thursday, April 5, 2007

Mike Swick looks to return to basics for fight against Okami at UFC 69

By Neil Davidson

HOUSTON (CP) - Despite a run of wins, Mike (Quick) Swick has been a man on a mission as he prepares for Japan's Yushin Okami in his hometown of Houston for Saturday's UFC 69: Shootout.

The Swick-Okami mixed martial arts bout is on the undercard of the welterweight title defence by Montreal's Georges St. Pierre against Matt (The Terror) Serra (available on pay-per-view). On the surface, Swick has nothing to prove. He's has not lost in more than three years, winning five straight while living up to his nickname.

He knocked out Alex Schoenauer in 20 seconds and Gideon Ray in 22. Quebec's Steve Vigneault lasted two minutes nine seconds and Joe Riggs 2:19 before being submitted.

The charismatic, well-spoken Swick was on a roll.

But the smooth ride hit a bump last September against Montreal's David Loiseau. The fight went the distance and while Swick won a unanimous decision, it was laboured at times and he took some shots in the third round that knocked off some of his gloss.

Looking back. Swick admits that his training for Loiseau what not what it should have been.

"I made some bad judgment calls on managing my time and schedule," Swick told The Canadian Press.

"The biggest problem, I think was mentally, because I was really stressed leading into the fight, that I wasn't prepared as I should have been," he added. "I was really stressed, especially before the fight wondering 'Did I do enough to get through, am I going to be able to get through this fight OK if it does go the distance?'

"Because I realised I probably didn't do what I should have done in training."

A popular fighter, Swick is in demand. The 27-year-old even has his on web show "Real Quick with Mike Swick" on where he does done everything from work the red carpet at the Spike TV Video Game Awards show to interview fighters at UFC events he is not involved in.

"I was doing too much extracurricular activities and I wasn't getting the training that I needed," Swick said. "I was doing a lot of travelling, I was gone every weekend, some of the weekdays, I wasn't in the gym basically as much as I should have been. And it cost me."

Swick (10-1) is not making the same mistake twice. He has focused on training and fighting this time around, knowing a win will deposit him next to former champion Rich Franklin at the front of the 185-pound contenders line.

Both will be awaiting the outcome of the expected July fight between champion Anderson Silva and Nate Marquardt.

UFC president Dana White says Swick has to accept that he won't be able to walk through every opponent.

"Swick's used to knocking people out in 30 seconds, he didn't do it one time so he's disappointed with his performance," White said. "I knew going into that fight that Loiseau wasn't going to be a guy he was going to knock out in 30 seconds. It was good test for him. Loiseau's a tough, durable guy who's been in the game for a long time.

"This kid's tough too, So if Swick thinks he's going to go out and get another 30-second knockout, I think he's setting his sights too high. Swick is explosive, talented and well-rounded but he's fighting tough guys."

Loiseau, whose contract was bought out by the UFC after the Swick bout and is now fighting on the Elite XC circuit, has frustrated other fighters in the past. He lasted five rounds with Franklin, who was unable to put him away at UFC 58.

Okami (20-3) presents another problem. He has three straight wins in the UFC, most recently submitting Rory Singer with little trouble at UFC 66.

"Okami's a very tough fighter," Swick said. "He's got a great record, he's beat some very tough opposition. The only people that have beaten him are very tough opposition and a couple of those losses were controversial. He's only been decisively beaten one time out of 23 fights. He's a tough guy. He's definitely a step up.

"This is the fight I need to keep making that progression towards the title. We'll see Saturday night how prepared I am and how ready I am for the task."

Swick sees the 25-year-old Okami as an obstacle in his championship challenge.

"I've won five (UFC) fights to his three. . . . I'm not going to let him come in here and take my spot and then go take my title shot away from me."

An active fighter, Okami stepped into the ring seven times in 2006. He went 6-1, including a disqualification win over Silva at Rumble on the Rock 9 when the Brazilian was penalized for illegal kicks. One of his victims was Kalib Starnes of Surrey, B.C.

Seven fights back takes Swick to 2003, thanks in part to a string of hand injuries. That stopped when he entered the UFC, for which he credits UFC cornerman Jacob (Stitch) Duran's expertise in wrapping hands.

Still he hurt his left hand in the Loiseau fight in what Swick calls a frank accident - an uppercut caught the point of Loiseau's elbow, causing ligament damage. The injury sidelined him for two months.

The Okami fight was originally slated for UFC 68 in early March, but was put over when UFC 69 was placed in Houston, with the UFC looking to add local content.

Swick promises friends and family will see a motivated, fit fighter this time round.

"I trained a ridiculous amount of time for this fight, so I know that the shape is there. I know I did everything I needed to do."

Outside of fighting, Swick has led an interesting life.

He left Houston at 18, to work security for a U.S. government construction project in Moscow. He has trained in Thailand. And he has battled other health issues than brittle hands. Diagnosed in Russia with an irregular heartbeat, he later underwent surgery to have a pacemaker inserted.

His big break with the UFC came after he was cast in Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show.

Fighting has been good to Swick, who now makes his home in San Jose. He says he drives several vehicles, but the current love is a tricked-out 2002 Ford F-150 truck.

His website shows a flashy truck whose back seat shares space with bulky stereo components.

Pull alongside Swick and chances are Tupac will be blaring. It reminds him of the boxers he used to see when he trained at the Main Boxing Gym in Houston - known as the House of Pain.

"There were a couple of top-level boxers who were in that gym. They were achieving their dreams and I remember then thinking it would be one day great to be like these guys and be on TV and fight in front of people. And they listened to a lot of Tupac.

"So it kind of brings me back, reminds me where I came from and how far I've made it so far and the success that I have had . . . it motivates me to keep going and keep achieving."

There's more to Swick than flash moves and music, however.

A supporter of UNICEF, Swick plans to put his fight shorts and gloves on eBay to raise money.

"UNICEF helps the worst of the worst ... these kids are dying of disease and starvation," he said.


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