Eric Lawson (9-3) will make his seventh Strikeforce appearance when he battles Ron Keslar (5-3) on Jan. 29 from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.
Should Lawson leave San Jose with a victory, it could mean big things for the 185 pound grinder.
"I've fought on big cards like this before. I enjoy it and it motivates me to train hard and put on an entertaining fight. I fight to finish, win, and entertain the hell out of everyone at the same time."
Lawson was on an impressive five-fight win streak in Strikeforce when he got caught in an armbar courtesy of Wayne Phillips on Feb. 26, 2010. Lawson says the loss hasn't slowed him down.
"That loss is just more fuel for the fire and I've used it as motivation to further improve myself as a fighter. That whole fight just came together wrong and mentally I was never really that into it. I had just come off a knee surgery that took me out way longer than expected so I was itching to get back in the cage so we took the fight on short notice. I didn't even have an opponent until two weeks before the fight so the whole time I was training I was never that motivated because it seemed like the fight was not going to happen due to not having an opponent. So long story short, I pushed for a fight when I should have been patient and waited for all the right factors to be in place. I was impatient, I paid the price, but like everything in life, (I) learned the lesson the hard way so I won't forgot it and (I won't) ever make it again."
If Lawson does indeed use the loss as motivation, it could be a long night for Keslar.
Some mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters have trained in their fighting styles for as long as they can remember. Lawson is not one of those fighters. In fact, his introduction to the combat sport was an interesting one.
"I never really paid attention to the Ultimate Fighting back in the day until I heard Tito (Ortiz) and Randy (Couture) were gonna fight. Myself being a wrestler, too, this got my attention so I started downloading videos of Tito where he was basically just taking people down and punching them in the face so I thought ‘I bet I could do a good job of that,' but had no idea how to get involved. At the time, I was going to college at UC Davis and Urijah (Faber) was a friend of mine. I bumped into him one day and he was talking about how he was gonna try cage fighting and thought it would be a good fit for me, too, so he talked to Ted Williams at Gladiator Challenge (GC) and got me my first fight."
Making a successful pro MMA debut is not an easy task, especially if it's on your birthday, but Lawson rose to the occasion.
"Urijah got me my first fight with GC in 2004 on Feb. 12th which happens to be my birthday, so to me it seemed like fate. I basically got together with Urijah, Scott Smith, "Warpath" (Ruben Villareal), and a few other Sacramento guys and we wrestled and just kinda of winged it on our own for training. I didn't have any submission training, but I'm pretty sure everyone that's ever wrestled knows how to do a rear naked choke so during my debut fight when my opponent gave me his back, I went for it and tapped him out. Best birthday ever."
Lawson earned a decision victory over Atilla Bodor in his second MMA bout, but his third contest was a different story. The California native suffered defeat for the first time when Nik Theotikos slapped on a triangle choke to earn the submission win. Lawson says the loss taught him a valuable lesson in how to be a true MMA competitor.
"My first two fights I basically was just a wrestler getting in the cage and brawling. When I fought Nik, I had wrestled with Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) guys, but had no actual BJJ training offensively or defensively so the fight went well for me executing some ground and pound until Nik threw up a triangle in which I had no idea how to defend or escape. That experience really opened my eyes to how diverse the sport of MMA is and how much I didn't know. After that I started putting a lot of time into everything. I wasn't familiar with like BJJ, Muay Thai, etc."
Lawson bounced back with a victory over Chris Werner via knockout. With the victory and a little help from his Muay Thai coach, Lawson made his Strikeforce debut in 2007.
"My Muay Thai coach and the owner of my hometown gym Combat Fitness in Concord, George Tsutsui was the Strikeforce Kickboxing Champion for a long time so he had a good relationship with Scott Coker. Scott called him one day seeing if he had any 185-pound MMA fighters and that's how my relationship with Strikeforce began. Living in Concord definitely helped my relationship with Strikeforce. They had pretty much most of the bay area MMA crowd coming to there shows, but they didn't have an east bay fighter to draw people from that area and I was able to do a great job of that, being one of the top ticket draw's consistently at all the HP shows. If you bring a crowd, that definitely helps with getting a better deal on your fights."
With his submission victory over Josh Neal in his debut for the San Jose based promotion, Lawson gave the fans in California something to cheer about. He says by this time, he had taken the sport very seriously.
"At this point I had already been fighting for Gladiator Challenge pretty consistently so I was already committed to training and fighting very seriously. As far as adjustments go, we're always making adjustments in my training as with MMA the sport is so diverse, you can never be an expert at everything so you have to constantly be learning, growing, and making adjustments to your game."
In the cage, Lawson is a fighter. Outside of the cage, he's a real estate finance agent. He explains how his career in real estate got off the ground.
"When I graduated college I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I liked the idea of working on a commission basis because you could rise above a set salary. It was about 2004 when I was in the job market and the real estate industry was on fire. I had a degree in economics and was also good in sales so being a mortgage broker seemed like a good fit to put both of those strengths together. Seven years later I can look back and say it was a good choice. The funny thing is that Real Estate Finance turned out to be a great compliment to MMA because it's no secret the world of real estate can be very stressful, so I pretty much spend all day getting stressed out and frustrated dealing with banks and then when I leave, I get to attack people for a few hours and it completely gets rid of all the stress I build up during the day so when I finally get home, instead of carrying that stress from work with me, I'm all calm, relaxed, and in a good mood again. God bless punching people in the face."
Having a job outside of being a fighter in MMA isn't too uncommon. Paulo Thiago serves as a member of the elite special police force in Brazil. Some fans believe if Thiago focused on his MMA career full time, then he would be a top 170-pound contender. Lawson says while he would love to compete full time, he says it's not as easy as it seems.
"I would love to fight full time, but like everyone else, I have bills to pay, a mortgage, a car payment, etc so I have to do what I have to do to support my lifestyle. So far juggling MMA with real estate has worked well for me. I'm pretty much self employed so the nice part about my career is I can kick back my work hours and put more time into training when I have a fight scheduled and then after my fight when I have more free time, I put my energy back into my day job. So it's a career that works pretty well with MMA. With the work I've already put into MMA and with the help of Alchemist Management, I'm confident that I'll be able generate enough income to fight full time soon enough."
Despite going 1-2 in his last three bouts, Lawson believes that Keslar will be a dangerous opponent on Jan. 29.
"I definitely think he's very motivated and is probably training harder than ever before. A loss is far more motivating than a win and we both are coming off loses. Also, his last fight was with a very tough opponent in Josh McDonald and he fought very well for a strong 3 rounds so that right there shows how tough he is and how much heart he has. I respect Ron and expect a tough fight from him."
While Lawson may have respect for Keslar, he knows that it's all business once the bell sounds. He has big plans if all goes well in San Jose.
"I expect Ron to be strong, in shape, and aggressive. We have similar backgrounds so the fight will probably be standing, on the ground, and pretty much all over the cage. We're both hungry and very motivated so it's going to be an exciting fight because we're both going to bring it and let it all out in the cage. I don't see this fight making it to the scorecards. After I put on a great show and win, I'm expecting a televised fight with Strikeforce and some tougher opponents."
Lawson hasn't forgot about those who helped him get to the big stage.
"Shout out to Lex, Hammer, and everyone at Alchemist Management. My coaches Gil Castillo, George Tsutsui and everyone at Combat Fitness. Crispim, Josh, and the Rock at Crispim BJJ. Big thanks to Rob Gibson and everyone at the UFC gym in Concord for helping me with my conditioning. Shout out to Kenny at Max Muslce in Walnut Creek for my supps, and Biz at www.bizproductions.com for doing my website www.ericlawsonmma.com where everyone can get Lawson Section Seats."
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