Swanson’s knack for winning scrapes leads to MMA success

Benton Swanson spars with his coach John Ethridge at the Eighth Street gym.


Like many young men with adrenaline and a bit of bravado, Brenton Swanson believed he could hold his own during an altercation.

“I just always thought I had a knack for fighting,” the 25-year-old Swanson said of his teenage years.

In general, he did. Swanson usually more than held his own during any physical confrontation, winning a lot more fights than he lost.

“That’s where I thought I was good at it,” he said.

Living in Parachute, he could have found more than his fair share of opportunities had he chosen to scour the oil field camps and taverns filled with gas well workers looking for a challenge.

In fact, “I was hanging out at the bars too much,” Swanson admitted.

Two years ago, a worker in Swanson’s energy-related business in Parachute knew of his ability to handle himself. He suggested Swanson turn that into a positive endeavor and suggested trying mixed martial arts at 8th Street Gym.

“He said this is the only legit MMA gym in Grand Junction,” Swanson said.

If Swanson really wanted to try his hand against the best, he knew his window of opportunity to get started in the sport was shrinking.

“I didn’t want to get too old,” he said.

In October of 2007, he bought a house in Grand Junction and began training. He quickly learned he does, in fact, have a knack for the sport. He’s also overcome the lumps he’s taken along the way.

“On the first day I was in (the gym), I got tapped (knocked down) by a guy smaller than me — like, four times,” Swanson said.

That could have discouraged another fighter. It merely energized Swanson.

“That’s what made me want to come back even more,” he said.

After six months of training, he thought he was ready for his first bout.

“I wasn’t ready,” he said. “You don’t know how ready you are until you get in the ring.”

By Swanson’s count, it takes about five fights to be ready. Now, he’s ready.

In only two years, Swanson has won two Colorado state MMA titles, at 155 and 162 pounds.

He also won the 162-pound title in a jiujitsu tournament.

Swanson, who has a 9-1 MMA record, had one thing working in his favor from the outset: his trainer.

He immediately came under the tutelage of John Ethridge, who got his training in Randy Couture’s famed MMA gym in Las Vegas.

Ethridge worked with Swanson for four months before returning to Las Vegas. He came back to the 8th Street Gym four months ago.

“He came in tough but with not a lot of skills,” Ethridge said of his initial impression of Swanson. “What I saw was someone who showed up every day and wanted to get better.”

Upon his return more than a year and a half after he’d begun working with Swanson, “He was rolling people up,” Ethridge said.

What has impressed Ethridge as much as Swanson’s fighting skills is his attitude.

“Brenton’s one of those guys who’s gracious in victory or defeat,” said Ethridge, who has no use for braggadocios.

By training with black belt jiujitsus, boxers and a pair of former state-champion wrestlers at 8th Street, Swanson has gotten the best of all training worlds.

“He was great workout partners,” Ethridge said.

But Swanson doesn’t just work to learn new skills.

“Even when you get good, you’ve got to go back to the basics,” Ethridge said. “That’s when you get really good.”

After winning two belts and a martial arts title, it’s time for Swanson to move to the next level.

He’ll compete in his first professional MMA bout Aug. 23 at Two Rivers Convention Center.

He expects the competition he faces early in his pro career to be comparable to the top amateurs he’s recently faced.

But he won’t be content to only fight professionally in Colorado.

“I want to go UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship),” Swanson said.

Las Vegas, Pay-Per-View bouts, the money — he wants it all.

Apparently, Swanson was right. He does have a knack for fighting.


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