hen Robbie Lawler first made his debut for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), times were much different. Lawler was training out of Pat Miletich's powerhouse gym with Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, Tim Sylvia, and Jeremy Horn. It was the top American camp at the time.
And Lawler was the hottest prospect in the camp. Where Hughes and Miletich focused their efforts on blending wrestling with effective submission grappling, Lawler excelled on the feet. The UFC hoped that he'd become the mixed martial arts (MMA) equivalent of Mike Tyson, a fighter who leaves opponents unconscious on the mat.
And much like Tyson, eventually those opponents began to "solve the puzzle" so to speak. First it was Pete Spratt, who battered Lawler's legs with kicks, forcing a submission. Then it was back-to-back losses to Nick Diaz at UFC 47 and Evan Tanner at UFC 50, the latter being the bout that bounced Lawler from the UFC.
The Tanner bout feels like ages ago.
Last night (Nov. 16, 2013), Robbie Lawler faced the toughest test of his MMA career and passed it with flying colors. For three rounds, he lumped up Rory MacDonald's face to win a decision. In one fight, Lawler fulfilled his potential by becoming a top contender for the welterweight title.
Needless to say, the man responsible for signing Lawler all those years ago is excited about seeing the man mature in a sport. After the UFC 167 post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White sat down with media and spoke about Lawler's resurgence in the sport.
"The thing is about Robbie Lawler, I'm the one that brought Robbie Lawler into the UFC. Robbie Lawler when he was younger, all he gave a shit about was making money. 'I want to fight where whoever is going to pay me the most money. I need money.'"
That attitude led Lawler to signing big money contracts with EliteXC and then to Strikeforce, where he became a cornerstone of the middleweight division. And despite fighting in other promotions, White and Lawler still remained in contact.
"And there's been so many times that Robbie and I have talked throughout the years when he fought for other organizations and he'd be like 'I want to come back and fight for you guys. I want to come back and fight for the UFC.' And I'd say, 'kid, it makes no sense. I'm not going to pay you what these guys are paying you. It doesn't make sense here. They need you over there and they've got to pay you whatever the hell to keep you.'"
"Now, we bought Strikeforce and he's back in the UFC, he's a completely different animal. He doesn't talk about money anymore. Now it's about winning that title. He's getting older now. he's not this young, crazy kid anymore."
"It's about before this opportunity goes away, he wants a run at the title and he's doing it."