Jon Anik has enjoyed broadcasting duties for the UFC since 2011. Among his duties, the Boston native hosts UFC: Ultimate Insider, and serves as play-by-play commentator for events on FOX Sports 1. Caged Insider caught up with Anik as he prepared to travel to Texas for UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Swanson this Saturday. In part one of our interview, he breaks down Saturday’s main event, talks about the featherweight division, and even answers criticism about the current UFC’s busy schedule.
Caged Insider: We heard that Dana White has confirmed that Cub Swanson will receive a UFC Featherweight title shot with a victory on Saturday. Is that accurate?
Anik: Yeah, I think Dana will reserve the right to change his mind. There are so many circumstances in the fight that dictate what happens – calendar, injuries. Granted, I’m just a broadcaster! But, Cub has won six straight fights and has done so with style points. He’s proven himself among the elite in every aspect of the game. In his first UFC main event I think he faced a lot of adversity in Jeremy Stephens, and methodically went on to win that fight. His form is the best of his career.
But you can make that claim about Frankie Edgar too. As far as the main event I’ve been assigned to, I don’t think it gets a whole lot better than this.
Caged Insider: Edgar is as “proven” a talent as anyone is in the UFC – a champion. But he still feels like an X-Factor in the featherweight division. He had his first fight with the champion Jose Aldo, then “Fight of the Night” honors against Charles de Oliveira, then retiring Penn. It still seems we’re not 100% sure what to expect.
Anik: No doubt about it. You could make the argument he’s the #1 featherweight in the world. The Aldo fight was close and his form ever since has been as good as can be. Most agree this Frankie always belonged at featherweight. I’m excited to see what he can do here. Two guys are so elite; this is when MMA is at its best. I hope it goes deep into the fight. I’m looking forward to see who has what left, in fourth and fifth round.
Caged Insider: They’ve been presented differently as well. He’s the most tenured featherweight on the roster, and he’s on a six fight winning streak, but I’m still not sure Cub Swanson has a “name” to the general public. Not like Edgar.
Anik: I think you’re right; Cub is a little under-exposed. He certainly has his fan base, his sponsors, the “Killer Cub” clothing line… it’s his 16th fight under the WEC/UFC banner. He’s been in some big fights before, but nothing like Edgar – (who has been) scheduled for nine five round fights in the UFC. That is experience you can lean on. But Cub thinks he can finish him. It’s the perfect fight at the perfect time; someone’s going to emerge in a good spot in a really good division.
Caged Insider: The odds are not as even as I expected: I’m seeing between a two-to-one and three-to-one favorite on Edgar. Do you think it’s unfair?
Anik: I think it speaks to some of the exposure that we’re talking about – fight experience, and exposure. I think if you’re getting Swanson in that range there’s value there for sure. But Cub ain’t worried about Vegas. You expect Frankie to get that type of respect, especially after what he did against BJ Penn. But we’ll see. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see late action on Cub Swanson if it’s in that range.
Caged Insider: Conor McGregor, at “The Time Is Now” event, was a guy who didn’t give Edgar, or Swanson for that matter, much respect. Edgar was described as “aging” and Cub as “looking about 95 years old.” He said with Swanson expecting a title shot with a win, his preference was Cub to win, so he would bake a pie and hit him in the face with it.
Anik: Good job – you hit all of the Conor McGregor bullet points there! (laughs) It’s just a different perception of where Edgar is right now. I’m of the belief that at 33 years old he can still go out and make a title run at 145. So I would respectfully disagree, and Cub Swanson may have some scar tissue but he’s not an old guy in MMA years. I think they’re both good challenges to Conor McGregor and he knows it – but all respect to Conor McGregor. He’s brought a lot of attention to the division, and a lot of that has to do with him being an elite fighter in his own right. This division is in a good place right now.
Caged Insider: I’ve talked to regional promoters and they say the same thing on the grassroots level. This is one division where they lose a fighter to the UFC and it’s not an issue; so many available to take that place.
Anik: Yes. 135, 145, and 155, there’s so much talent. People say the UFC roster, it’s 500+ fighters now, but there are thousands of good fighters. That’s why the roster is what it is. There are a lot of guys that deserve to be here that aren’t here yet.
Caged Insider: How do you respond to those fans, who say there are too many events in the UFC? This weekend’s event has some familiar names, but that feeling of a big event of years past isn’t so much the case – and the schedule for next year averages out an event every week or so. Or do you think this is a golden age now?
Anik: I think there are a lot of different factors. I point to the fact that there’s a lot of talent; a lot of fighters who need to fight. There are television contracts too. But I think we’re in a good range right now, forty to forty-five fights a year. I think for Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, it’s incredibly challenging to put on the fight cards. I’m thankful every day I don’t have their gigs.
But I understand why people say that. There are certain fights, whether it’s The Ultimate Fighter or otherwise, that maybe aren’t at the level you’ve seen in the past. But I think the product is outstanding. There are still fighters knocking on the door to be in the UFC that we can’t get in. If anything I think we’ll stay at about this number in the future, and I hope I get the chance to call them.
Check back tomorrow for Part Two, where Anik highlights the UFC Fight Night undercard — and also speaks on his own career highlights.