What was supposed to be a UFC Fight Night 11 main event between Mike Swick (10-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) and Chris Leben (16-4 MMA, 6-3 UFC) will likely be scratched from the Sept. 19 fight card.
Swick, a cast member from The Ultimate Fighter 1, spoke exclusively to UFCjunkie.com (www.ufcjunkie.com) yesterday evening about the unfortunate turn of events.
“He backed out,” Swick said. “He didn’t take it. It kind of sucks with how tough he talks about fighting anyone, anywhere. He kept saying we could rematch anytime.“
The Swick vs. Leben fight was supposed to be a rematch three-and-a-half years in the making. During a January 2004 WEC event, Leben landed a second-round knockout punch that dropped Swick and halted the bout. Leben continually reminded Swick and the other castmates of that victory during the taping of The Ultimate Fighter 1, and the otherwise composed Swick angrily vowed to avenge the loss.
After the show, though, both fighters went their own ways. Swick emerged as a top 185-pound fighter and soon earned the nickname “Quick” for his lightning-fast knockout victories. Leben, too, experienced a large amount of success as a hard-hitting, tough-as-nails fighter before eventually losing three of his past four fights.
With both fighters coming off losses and The Ultimate Fighter 6 debut approaching, the UFC finally put the fight together to capitalize on a TUF-friendly crowd.
During the weekend of UFC 73, UFCjunkie.com announced that the fight officially had been offered to the two fighters and was expected to take place.
“There’s no better time than now,” Swick said. “It would have been perfect. How can you pass up that exposure from a main event? The UFC is getting crazy numbers on Spike right now. I’ve been asked about the rematch for three years. Spike wanted [the fight], the UFC wanted it, and the fans wanted it. It’s disrespectful to back out now.“
After his loss to Yushin Okami at UFC 69 — a fight in which he suffered from a noticeable size disadvantage — Swick announced his intentions of moving from 185 pounds down to 170.
After the fight with Leben was offered by the UFC, Swick wasn’t too concerned that Leben hadn’t officially accepted it. After all, Leben had also mentioned the possibility of moving down to 170. Regardless, though, it wasn’t mandatory for the fight.
“I wanted the fight — whether it was at 170 (pounds), 185 or a catch-weight — so it didn’t matter to me,” Swick said. “I figured that’s what Leben was waiting to decide. I thought he was worried about the weight cut. It never crossed my mind he wouldn’t take the fight at all.“
A message that UFCjunkie.com left with Leben’s management yesterday evening hasn’t been returned.
Swick said the UFC still plans to keep him on the televised portion of the UFC Fight Night 11 event, but with the grudge match no longer part of the deal, he knows that he may no longer be featured in the night’s main event.
The UFC is on the search for a new opponent.
“What it comes down to is that [Leben’s] got a win over me, and he’s been blabbing about it since the show,” said Swick. “(At UFC Fight Night 11), I would get to take that away from him. I don’t think he wants to gamble. It’s a cheap move. And he can’t give me the respect to let me avenge that loss? All that talk he talks, and this is how it goes? I think he lost that warrior spirit.“
UFC Fight Night 11 takes place at The Palms Las Vegas and airs on Spike TV. With the Leben vs. Swick fight now apparently dead, a fight between Spencer Fisher and Din Thomas is the most likely alternative to earn top billing at the event.