All too often, professional fighters fly under the radar while making big accomplishments in both sport and family life. Casual MMA fans will see guys all of a sudden show up in the patented UFC Octagon with 20-plus fights, and those fans are left wondering, “Where has this guy been?”
Daniel “Agent Orange” Swain has accomplished a lot in life thus far. By the time he entered the cage for his last fight roughly a year ago, the 29-year-old was a former high school and NWCA national-champion wrestler. He was raising four kids, including three foster sons and one biological daughter. He was a full-time student at Eastern Washington University, too. On top of all of this, he had 29 pro fights under his belt with 19 victories.
That’s a busy schedule for a guy who was under contract with Russia’s M-1 organization. All of his fights were international bouts. His last two wins came against a Russian in Russia and a Chinese opponent in China. Both of those fights ended in first-round submissions.
“The last fight, I was just happy to go in and perform the way I did,” Swain told Combat Press. “It’s always interesting traveling across the world and then fighting somebody in their home country in front of a crowd of their own people. To go in there, not get hit really at all and then win in 28 seconds by submission, it was basically a flawless victory. I was pretty stoked. I walked out of the ring telling the promoter, ‘I’m ready to go. If there is a guy that falls off later in the card, I’ll fight again tonight. Let’s do it.’
“It’s kind of upsetting that I’ve had to wait so long to get another fight. It’s been over a year now since I fought last. That performance really cemented in my mind that I’m ready to take the next step, go to the UFC, and become a world champion.”
Swain’s time off was not spent just sitting around doing nothing. In fact, while he decided to take some time off from school to focus on his career, he decided to make some big strides in his family life, which has always been the main focus for him and his wife Amber.
“Last November, we adopted all three boys,” Swain said. “Then, the Friday before last, my wife just had our second biological child, a little boy. Now, we’ve got five kids, so it’s pretty chaotic. But it’s a fun chaotic. It keeps life interesting.”
Swain was still under contract with M-1 until late spring, but that didn’t stop the offers from coming in for the next stage of his career. In January, he found out about an opportunity to fight on Dana White’s Contender Series.
“They didn’t give me a date,” Swain explained. “They didn’t give me an opponent. They just said I was going to be on the Contender Series in July. That’s all they told me.”
Swain was willing to pick up a short-notice fight as another route to the big show. He was even willing to head up to lightweight if that’s what it would take. However, the opportunity never arose for the right match-up, and so Swain remained focused on the Contender Series.
“We started basically training for that fight back in January and then COVID hit,” Swain recalled. “I took a few weeks off before I started to go a little stir crazy. I talked to my coaches, and we started to do some small group stuff. We’re excited, man. We can’t wait to get in there and show the world what we’re capable of doing.”
As an M-1 fighter since May 2018, Swain was used to fighting in some of the places that got hit hard with COVID-19 right out of the gate. Even before the pandemic hit American soil, he was pretty abreast of what was going on.
“As soon as everything hit and they started canceling all of those shows, I was getting worried,” Swain admitted. “It was hitting bad overseas, and I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m leaving America to go to China or Russia.’ So, I might be sitting until May, when my contract is up.
“Then we started to lock down, I wasn’t sure if the Contender Series thing was still going on or what. Then, they started putting shows back on, but I hadn’t heard anything about the Contender Series until late May, early June. Then, they hit me up and said they had an opponent for me, they had a date for me, and all of the things I needed to do.”
By early June, Swain was finally done with his M-1 contract and found out he was set to face Canada’s T.J. Laramie in the Contender Series. The fight is scheduled for Tuesday, August 11, at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. This will be Swain’s first fight on U.S. soil in over four years, even though he trains out of Warrior Camp in Spokane, Wash. Laramie made his pro debut at the age of 17 in March 2015 and already sits at 11-3 as a pro.
“He’s a young kid — 22 years old — but with quite a lot of fights for his age,” Swain said. “He’s similar to me in that I had a lot of fights by the time I was 22 as well. But he’s never been tested like I have. He hasn’t fought around the world. He’s mostly fought around Canada, mostly near his hometown. I’m looking to take advantage of that. I’m looking to come in with more experience than him and my more veteran-ness. I’ve been in there with all types of fighters, so he’s not going to have much that’s going to surprise me. He has a good right hand, OK wrestling, and OK ground [but] nothing I haven’t fought before. I’m pretty excited for the match-up.”
Swain trains under veteran fighter and head coach Pablo Alfonso, who was a new addition to his coaching staff a couple years ago, and Joel Thomas. He has a solid group of coaches and training partners to prepare him for whatever Laramie brings to the cage.
“I bring that style that every MMA fan loves,” Swain said. “I have 20 professional wins, 17 of which are by finish. I look to finish the fights. That’s my goal. If I go to a decision, even if I win the fight, then I get down on myself. I was like that with wrestling too.”
Swain has come a long way in 29 years. With a family of five children to support and a big opportunity in the Contender Series on Tuesday night, it will certainly be his time to shine in a fight that could define the future of his career. Regardless of how things work out with fighting, he still has school to fall back on. He is close to finishing his degree in geology.
“I am taking a sabbatical from school, so I can focus on my fight career more completely,” Swain explained. “I’m in the later classes in my program, so it’s hard to do full-time schooling while also being a full-time professional fighter trying to get into the UFC. I’m too motivated and focused on achieving these goals, so I decided to take some time away from school to focus on my family and not having to write a paper on historical geology or something like that.”
On Tuesday night, in a fight that airs live on ESPN+, Swain will finally appear on that radar. He’ll get to show his skills in front of the UFC boss as he attempts to earn a coveted UFC contract and take his career to the next level.