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Comeback kids Mike Swick, Jamie Varner featured at UFC on Fox 4

Swick and Varner open the nationally televised card


Courtesy of UFC

Mike Swick celebrates a second-round TKO win over Ben Saunders at UFC 99 in Lanxess Arena in Germany on June 13, 2009.

UFC President Dana White and other personnel in the promotion’s local offices bestowed an unflattering nickname upon Mike Swick during the past two and a half years.

They referred to the veteran welterweight as “Mr. Glass.” Everyone, especially White, had great admiration for “The Ultimate Fighter 1" veteran, but they wondered whether his fragility would keep him from ever fighting again.

Knee injuries and a serious illness called esophageal spasm, that came with more than a year’s worth of misdiagnoses, have sidelined the 33-year-old Swick for the past 68 UFC events, a span that adds up to 911 days.

“I never thought about wanting to quit myself,” Swick said. “But there was a time where I thought my career might be over, talking to the doctors.”

Much to the chagrin of the UFC, Swick never gave up hope and eventually persevered through the hardship. A national television audience will watch as Swick (14-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) makes his return to the octagon against DaMarques Johnson (16-10 MMA, 4-4 UFC) in the opening main-card bout of UFC on Fox 4 on Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Swick is one of two fighters on the Fox portion of the card who mounted considerable comebacks to get to this point. Some fans thought the other, lightweight Jamie Varner, also was on the verge of retirement a year and a half ago.

But Varner (20-6-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC), who meets Joe Lauzon (20-7 MMA, 8-4 UFC), had different reasons than Swick. The former WEC champion went winless — three losses and one draw — in his last year in the WEC and was not one of the many fighters brought over to the UFC when the promotions merged.

“Hitting rock bottom definitely lit a fire in me,” Varner said. “I was burnt out on fighting, but I figured Michael Jordan retired a few times.”

Click to enlarge photo

Lightweight fighter Jamie Varner, right, of Dobson Shores, Ariz., celebrates his upset win against Edson Barboza of Jupiter, Fla., during UFC 146 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, May 26, 2012.

Varner, 27, altered his training and moved forward after the UFC omission, going 3-1 with all the victories coming via first-round stoppage. He kept faith that another opportunity would present itself, which is exactly what happened when the UFC needed a late replacement to face undefeated lightweight prospect Edson Barboza at UFC 146.

Varner extinguished Barboza’s hype with a first-round TKO victory that’s a candidate for the biggest upset of the year.

“I don’t think anyone saw that coming,” White said.

Swick hasn’t gotten the moment of glory to mark his return. That’s what he’s searching for Saturday.

It’s the only thing that will validate all the pain and adversity Swick has gone through since last fighting at UFC 109 in February 2010. Sometimes, he’d be hitting bags at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., when a sharp feeling would shoot across his chest so hard he couldn’t move.

Other times, Swick would wake up in the middle of the night thinking he was suffering a heart attack.

“My medical condition made it almost impossible to train,” Swick said.

He’s hopeful that he’s past it all now, that he’s added years to his career by properly addressing all of his injuries. Only time will tell whether Swick can fight regularly.

But like Varner, Swick already has pushed forward further than what looked possible at times. He’s made it back to the octagon.

“The guy has had a real tough stint with injuries before we even started getting plagued with injuries,” White said. “Swick was getting injured all the time, but it’s good to see him back. I love the kid. I’m pumped.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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