After close to three years, and six fights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight division, Shane Burgos feels vindication for the first time. His UFC Fight Night 151 win over Cub Swanson was a landmark achievement for him. It gave him the most noteworthy win on his developing résumé and his first Top-15 ranking in the promotion.
After winning four of his first five bouts in the UFC, Burgos, 28, had yet to break into the UFC’s official rankings. Although his victories over Charles Rosa and Kurt Holobaugh were notable, he still lacked a definitive win to make a case for being one of the best in the division. That all changed for him in in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Since his time in World Extreme Cagefighting , a win over Cub Swanson has taken on the status of a rite of passage in becoming an elite featherweight. Over his 12 years at the forefront of the 145-pound division, Swanson has won 16 of 25 fights. Often competing against the best that the featherweight class could offer, his résumé is filled with a plethora of notable wins, but his losses tell the story of how great he has been.
Former world champions and top contenders like Jens Pulver, Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas, Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway, Brian Ortega and Renato Carneiro are the only men to earn victories over the Californian since 2007. Simply put, if you can beat Swanson, you are pretty damn good. That is why, even though Burgos was just the latest in a four-fight losing streak for Swanson, the win over him still means so much.
“It’s the most meaningful win of my career [because] of the name value he has,” Burgos told Sherdog. “Everybody knows who he is; even if you’re just a casual fan, you’ve definitely seen a Cub Swanson fight. It means the world to have his name on my record and say ‘Win’ next to it. He’s only lost to legitimate competition. Adding my name to that list proves I am one of the best in the world.”
Although his hand was raised at the Canadian Tire Centre, it surely did not come easy. The fight was very competitive, with Burgos only landing five more significant strikes – 134 to 129 – than his opponent. Even though he worked hard for the eventual victory, Burgos feels that the fight played out exactly as he wanted.
“I did a lot of visualization for this fight. It went smoothly [and] nothing surprised me negatively or positively. He fought how I expected he would fight, based off the way I was going to fight,” said Burgos.
The Team Tiger Schulmann fighter feels that he executed his game plan – to make it a grinding chess match in which he would be able to showcase every aspect of his multifaceted MMA game – in a way that allowed him to dictate the pace and the style of the bout.
“I wasn’t just going to go out there and brawl and have it been a crazy, insane, Fight of the Year [type of bout],” Burgos explained. “That wasn’t my plan. I wanted to show that I have different facets of my game. I can go out there and be technical, show off my defense, show off my kicks. That’s what I wanted to do.”
Based off of how the first 10 minutes of the bout played out, Burgos says that he was confident that he was winning on the scorecards. He also overheard Swanson’s corner tell their fighter that he was down two rounds to none. Thus, Burgos was not surprised that after two rounds of going toe-to-toe the veteran of 36 fights attempted to take the action to the mat in the third and final round.
“I expected him to throw a little more, but I wasn’t shocked at all he was going for the takedown. I thought he might try to grapple a little bit in that round.”
As the fight came to a close, Burgos had no doubt in his mind that he proved that he was the better combatant. “As soon as the fight ended, I was 150-percent sure that I had won.” However, even though he thought that he had won, and even though it seemed that even Swanson’s coaches felt the same way, only two of the three judges saw the fight in Burgos’ favor. He admits that the fight was hotly contested, but he was still baffled by the decision of judge David Therien, especially since he scored all three rounds in favor of Swanson.
“I just don’t see how any judge could score that,” Burgos remarked. “That’s no disrespect to [Swanson], I just don’t see how you can give him all three rounds.”
Following the biggest win of his 13-fight career, Burgos has finally earned a spot in the UFC rankings (as well as in several other outlets). He is now sitting at No. 13 on the promotion’s official list of their top 15 featherweights. By comparison, he is currently ranked No. 10 on Sherdog’s list. He feels that placement on the UFC list especially justifies his long-held belief that he is one of the top fighters in his class.
“It’s awesome. It’s vindication right there,” Burgos declared. “It proves that all the hard work, the dedication, the sacrifice that I’ve been putting in for the last 13-plus years paid off. It continues to pay off, and it’s going to keep paying off until I get that belt.”
Working his way towards the featherweight championship would likely require another match-up with another top 10 opponent, and Burgos expects no less after finally breaking into the rankings himself; in fact, he would consider it anticlimactic if that is not what transpires.
“I’m expecting to get [a top 10 opponent]. I can’t see not getting one. Maybe it would be a disappointment, because I’m totally expecting a top 10 [fight].”
The kid from the Monroe Projects in the Soundview neighborhood of the Bronx has a vacation planned for late August, so he would be open to getting back in the cage in the weeks before or after. Whenever that next fight does happen, he sees more big wins in his future. “I’m just scratching the surface at the end of the day,” Burgos proclaimed.
That self-belief comes from more than a decade spent as part of Team Tiger Schulmann, a gym that he has seen evolve from a network of youth karate schools to the home of some of the best fighters in the northeast, including fighters like Jimmie Rivera, Lyman Good, Michael Trizano and Julio Arce.
“A lot of people were like, ‘You train at a karate school,’ not taking me serious. Then you see [that] me and my teammates have been putting a lot of respect on our name in the last couple of years, just winning these high-level fights on the [sport’s] biggest stage. It took a while, but we’re definitely getting the respect we deserve now.”