When the UFC acquired its rival promotion Strikeforce back in 2011, fans quickly began to foam at the mouth with the thought of the all the possible fights that were once only dreamt of.
With superstars like Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem and Luke Rockhold all making the leap from Strikeforce to the UFC, as they looked to prove they belong in the big leagues, it didn’t take long for some of these dream matchups became a reality. But lost in the shuffle was a fighter who at one point in his career was being heralded as a ‘can’t miss prospect’ with dynamite in his hands and a tank that never seemed to run out.
This man was ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler.
Ten years ago Lawler made his UFC debut as a baby faced 20-year-old and it seemed all but inevitable that the young Miletich Fighting Systems product would end up with gold strapped around his waist as he rattled off three dominant victories to start off his UFC career.
But his inexperience seemed to get the better of him as he dropped three of his next four fights, which results in Lawler being handed his walking papers from the UFC.
He would then go on to amass a record of 8-1, with seven of those wins coming by way of knockout, in promotions such as EliteXC, Pride FC, King of the Cage and the IFL. This impressive string of victories caught the attention of Strikeforce President Scott Coker, who immediately signed Lawler.
It seemed as if Lawler had turned a corner in his fighting career as the hype that once surrounded him began to reemerge.
But after failing to win consecutive fights en route to an unimpressive 3-5 record as a middleweight under the Strikeforce banner, the thought of Lawler challenging for the title in UFC seemed rather farfetched.
However, the UFC gave him a chance and Lawler more than made it up to them as he made the drop back down to welterweight and obliterated UFC veteran Josh Koscheck in front of a sold out crowd at Honda Center at UFC 157 last February.
Lawler followed his performance up with a violent head kick knockout over Bobby Voelker at UFC on FOX 8, and then upset the man being labeled as the new future of the 170-pound division, Rory MacDonald at UFC 167.
With a renewed sense of pride and the motivation to put in the work he has once again, Lawler had not only erased the image of his first run in the UFC, but had emerged as a legitimate threat to the UFC welterweight title.
Making an appearance on the Power MMA Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, Lawler looked back on his time away from the octagon and what it’s like to be back in the biggest promotion in the world.
“I’m enjoying it. I have a really good camp down here [in Florida] but I enjoy being back in the UFC and that brought excitement to my game,” said Lawler. “I’m ready for the bright lights. I wasn’t enjoying myself when I was fighting for the other organization later on in my career and I was just waiting for the opportunity to show what I’m capable of and moving down to 170 [pounds] definitely helped.”
But those bright lights Lawler mentioned are about to get a whole lot hotter as his next fight will be against the hard hitting Johnny Hendricks for the vacant UFC welterweight title. But Lawler credits his coaches and training partners for getting him into tip top shape heading into the biggest fight of his life.
“I have a really good camp. There are a lot of guys out here at American Top Team that pushed me,” said Lawler. “Everything is peaking at the right time, not just for this fight but for my career and I’m ready to show what I’m capable of.”
Hendricks is of course coming off the controversial decision loss to former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. While many in attendance scored the bout in favor of Hendricks, the judges cage side gave it to St. Pierre.
“I’m not too worried about [Hendricks’s game plan],” said Lawler. “I think he’s going to wrestle at some point in time but I’m going to move my feet and just box his head off.”
Former UFC fighter and current head trainer at Power MMA & Fitness Aaron Simpson delved into the matchup a little more as he is one of the few fighters to train with both Lawler and Hendricks.
“I got to spend a week with [Hendricks] and train with him a little bit and he did hit hard as heck with that left hand. But I didn’t feel like his stand up was anywhere where [Lawler’s] is, or is movement,” said Simpson. “He doesn’t kick a whole lot and he doesn’t take kicks very well. But he’s super strong. I don’t know, besides a couple guys, who have put me on the cage and just hold me there. But I’ve trained with [Lawler] also and I’d give him the upper hand.”
While Lawler didn’t go as far as saying Hendricks had nothing that concerned him, he did reveal that as long as he maintains focus, the belt was as good as his.
“I feel really good, my really wrestling is really strong right now and my body is really strong right now,” said Lawler. “So I’m not too worried about him. I’m worried about myself and performing at my best and if I’m at my best then he’s not going to be able to handle me.”