Robbie Lawler has seen it all during his 19-year MMA career. Heck, one might even suggest the American has done it all. The 38-year-old takes on Neil Magny in a co-main event welterweight contest on Saturday night at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, and Lawler shared his perspective on just how much MMA and the UFC had grown during his time in the sport.
“You could walk through the airport and people don’t even know who any of the champions were,” Lawler said.
But things have changed dramatically. Where MMA was once looked down upon by the majority of mainstream society, even amongst the people who occasionally enjoyed dipping their toes into the world of professional boxing, MMA has now fully made its mark in the world of sports.
Lawler shared how he saw that perception change over time since he first entered the cage fighting scene back in 2001.
“When I first started, it was still kind of like, ‘Oh, those guys are animals,’ or this, that and the other,” Lawler said. “But really now people are starting to look at it as a sport. And like ‘Okay, these guys are normal.’ For a while, they always thought we were just these jerks that you’d see at a bar drinking beer. Now, everyone’s kind of like, ‘Okay.’
Lawler: ‘The Sport Has Evolved’
Lawler said he was grateful for the opportunity to do his part in helping change people’s minds about the sport he loves.
“The sport has evolved into normal people going ‘Oh, these people are great. We watch this sport,’ and before that wasn’t the case,” Lawler said. “So I think that the UFC has done a great job of pushing that forward. Now we don’t have to promote the sport as much as we did back in the day.”
Lawler hasn’t competed since losing to former interim champ Colby Covington in August 2019. His decision setback in that contest marked a three-fight losing streak for Lawler, so the fighter heads into his co-main event slot against Magny hoping to get back into the win column.
The “Ruthless” and popular action fighter said he knows what he’s up against this weekend.
“Very long fighter, really good cardio, and well rounded,” Lawler said. “Long and good standup, decent wrestling, good jiu-jitsu. A well-rounded guy who’s been around the sport for a while.”
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2 Weeks Notice
Still, Lawler’s prediction for the fight was built around the idea that he’d be ready to put up a good showing despite having accepted the fight on just two weeks’ notice.
“I’m just going to go out and showcase my skills,” Lawler said. “And what my coaches at Sanford MMA have done with me and then sharpen my tools. All my training partners at Sanford MMA, Henri Hooft, Greg Jones, Kami Barzini, done a great job getting me ready.”
Despite the late start to training camp, Lawler, the former welterweight champion, expects to have put in enough work to make good on the opportunity.
“Short notice, but I had two good weeks of training to get ready for this,” Lawler said. ” I was obviously doing a little bit of work before that, so it’s not like I was coming off the couch. But they’ve done a great job with me and I’m excited to showcase my skills.”
And as for how he’ll approach this massively important fight, there’s only one way Lawler likes to compete: full throttle. Lawler has competed in numerous Fight of the Year candidates over the years, and he approaches every single trip inside the Octagon the same way.
“It’s just something that’s inside of me,” Lawler said. ” It’s just the way I fight. I like to battle and the bigger the battle and the tougher it is the more I’m going to just keep pushing. I guess for me, I feel like there’s only one choice.”
That’s part of what helped Lawler become such a fan favorite over the years and also one of his major contributions to the growth of the sport.
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