By Ben Fowlkes
January 22, 2010

Mike Swick had gotten used to going back to the locker room a winner. Four straight victories and two-and-a-half years without a loss will do that. But as he sat backstage at the MEN Arena in Manchester, England, after dropping a decision to Dan Hardy at UFC 105, it hit him. For the first time since 2007, he was going home a loser.

"I was devastated," Swick said, reflecting on the bout that likely would have landed him a title shot. "The whole experience, it was just a rough week for me, from beginning to end. It was a lot for me to handle, and the loss really affected me. I hate losing so much."

And he did lose. This much he can admit. Hardy, already the hometown favorite of the British crowd, staggered Swick with his punching power and left an indelible impression on the judges. When the final horn sounded, Swick knew that he'd been beaten. He accepts that. What he can't accept, he says, is the suggestion that Hardy might be the better overall fighter.

"It was clear he won," Swick said. "Hats off to him for that. But I think nine out of 10 times I win that fight. I think he's a good guy and a good fighter, but I just can't swallow that he's the better fighter. I don't believe that."

It doesn't make things any easier to see Hardy propelled to new heights as a result of the win. He faces UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre in a main event bout in March, while Swick gets shuffled back into the middle of the pack to face Paulo Thiago at UFC 109 on Feb. 6.

It's a bitter pill to swallow, particularly for a guy as fiercely competitive as Swick. This is someone who taught himself to golf in a matter of weeks after being embarrassed on the links by his father-in-law.

Losing is bad enough. Losing to someone who goes on to take what he thought would be his title shot is even worse, and he can't bring himself to say that Hardy deserves the opportunity.

"The thing about this sport is, there are so many variables that go into it," Swick said. "He did beat me. And if I would have won then I would have been the No. 1 contender, so you can look at it that way. But just because he won that fight, I don't think that means he deserves a title shot. He's only had three fights in the UFC and he's only had one finish. He hasn't had the same road that a lot of the top welterweights in the UFC have. Even though he beat me, I have to say he doesn't deserve it. If he thinks he does, I'm sorry, but he's wrong."

Swick's bout with Thiago, who is 1-1 against AKA fighters, isn't about team loyalty or any other pre-packaged storyline, he insists. It's about nothing more complicated than an attempt to get back in the win column. As much as he wants another shot at Hardy, and as badly as he'd like to prove that he's the better fighter, wishing isn't going to make it happen.

"I just have to get back in there and keep going," he said. "No matter what I do, [Hardy] is not going to be my next fight. Aside from trying to get that rematch, I also just have to get back on the winning track. That's a huge motivator for me. Feb. 6, I have a chance to do that, to go out there and get a win and not sit on this loss for too long. That's all I'm trying to do right now."

In a division as crowded as the UFC's welterweight class, where everyone has earned their spot and there's always someone else struggling to take yours, nothing is guaranteed.

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