Do-or-Die for Robbie Lawler: ‘Ruthless’ Needs a Win at UFC 266

Robbie Lawler

Getty Robbie Lawler lifts Ben Askren before slamming him to the mat during UFC 235 at T-Mobile Arena on March 02, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A war will be waged between two MMA legends at UFC 266 as former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler will take on ex-Strikeforce 170-pound champion Nick Diaz in a huge featured bout the latest stacked PPV.

Although the fight isn’t a main event or championship bout, “Ruthless” and Diaz are scheduled to fight for five, five-minute rounds. This is only the second time the UFC has scheduled a contest like this, the first being Leon Edwards versus Nate Diaz, Nick’s brother, at UFC 263 in June 2021.

UFC 266 takes place September 25 at 10 p.m. Eastern time at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.

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The bout is a rematch more than 15 years in the making, as the two first squared off in 2004 during UFC 47. As history has it, Diaz downed Lawler with a left in the second round, winning the fight by KO.

Since then, both fighters have gone on to have great success in MMA. Diaz, who has a professional record of 26-9 with two no contests, earned the inaugural Strikeforce welterweight championship in 2010. He also fought for UFC welterweight gold twice, competing for the interim strap in 2012 and undisputed belt in 2013. Diaz came up short each time in the UFC title matches, losing decisions to Carlos Condit and Georges St-Pierre, respectively.

Lawler Won the UFC 170-Pound Belt in 2014 & Defended it Twice Before Losing to Tyron Woodley

Robbie Lawler

GettyRobbie Lawler celebrates after defeating Johny Hendricks by split decision in their welterweight title fight during the UFC 181 in 2014.

On the other end of the rivalry, Lawler was able to capture a UFC championship. A veteran of 44 professional fights, Ruthless has a professional record of 28-15 with one no contest. At the height of his career, Lawler won the UFC welterweight belt, defeating then-champ Johny Hendricks by split decision at UFC 181 in December 2014.

Lawler defended his title twice in two all-time classics, beating Rory MacDonald by fifth-round TKO at UFC 189 in July 2015 and Carlos Condit by split decision in January 2016 at UFC 195.

Later in 2016, Lawler’s tenure as champion ended when he lost the belt via first-round knockout to Tyron Woodley at UFC 201.

And since then, the fan-favorite fighter has only won one fight, beating Donald Cerrone in 2017, making this contest with Diaz a do-or-die moment for Lawler.

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Ruthless Is on a 4-Fight Losing Streak & Could Be Cut By the UFC If He Loses to Diaz

Robbie Lawler

GettyRobbie Lawler kicks Johny Hendricks during UFC 181 in 2014.

Lawler has already had a Hall-of-Fame caliber career and will be remembered for several of his epic fights inside the Octagon. But the reality is the aging Lawler, now 39, has lost his last four fights in a row. And if he can’t defeat Diaz, who is coming off a layoff that spanned more than six years, then Ruthless may be given his walking papers by the UFC.

The promotion has recently parted ways with older former UFC champions, including Woodley and ex-heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. And although Lawler is still a big name, it may be hard for the UFC to justify keeping Lawler on the roster hitting a five-fight skid.

Ruthless last fought in August 2020 against Neil Magny and was defeated in a lopsided unanimous decision. Lawler dropped a unanimous decision a year earlier to Colby Covington. In March 2019, Lawler lost to Ben Askren by first-round bulldog choke. The ending of the fight was controversial, as Ruthless and many fans believed the tapout was disputed.

His losing streak started in December 2017 when he took on former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos and was toppled via unanimous decision.

Lawler has had one win since losing the belt, however, and that was in his bounce-back fight after the Woodley scrap, defeating Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in July 2017 by unanimous decision.

If Ruthless loses at UFC 266, unless the promotion can find the brawler another big-named veteran on a skid as well, don’t be surprised to see Lawler exit the company.

Diaz Was the Perfect Name for Lawler to ‘Focus’ On, Get Excited to Compete Again

At this stage of his career, Lawler is more choosy about who he’ll stand opposite of inside the Octagon. And Diaz was the perfect name to get him to put in the extra effort in the gym.

In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Lawler said:

If I’m not excited about it, then whatever. If I’m excited about it, I’ll put in the time, get in there and grind away. I’m gonna be training [regardless], but there’s a different level of training for a big fight. And I want time in advance, eight to 10 weeks of putting in the time. Nick Diaz is a name that got me to put stuff down, get in there and focus. You never know.

Lawler Says His UFC 266 Fight With Diaz Is ‘Different’ Than Other Fights

Ruthless told MMA Fighting that he has put a lot into this training camp. Lawler said that the preparation has been “different” than other fights he’s been a part of because of his motivation to go out and compete against a big name like Diaz.

“It feels a little different [than most fights] to the extent that I’m doing extra,” Lawler told MMA Fighting. “What I mean by extra is that, at this age, it takes a lot for me to take a fight. I’m not just gonna fight anybody, because it’s taking time away from my family and you have to be a little selfish, spend a lot of time on yourself in training. He’s definitely a guy and a name that’s getting me up and into the gym every day.”

Lawler Is Not Focused on Getting Revenge for 2004 Loss

Robbie Lawler

GettyRobbie Lawler speaks to fans and media during the UFC 189 press tour at Flames Central on March 25, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

During the interview, Lawler told MMA Fighting that for years after their UFC 47 fight, he didn’t consider rematching Diaz and had moved on from the possibility of the fight.

But when the cage closes on September 25, Lawler will be laser-focused on Diaz. And his drive to win won’t be coming from a place of wanting to avenge his 2004 loss.

“I’m not too worried about those types of things,” Lawler said. “I worry about getting better. That fight, I learned a lot from that fight. I cleaned up my game a lot, and just try to continue to evolve. I try to get myself better [rather] than dwell on the past. I wasn’t out to prove something, it made me a better fighter, so it’s part of my growth.”

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