13 years later, UFC 173's Robbie Lawler still fighting for love of MMA, not money

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

"When I first started fighting, I saw UFC champions driving rusty cars." -- Robbie Lawler

The pay scale in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), specifically Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), has improved drastically since its inception back in 1993.

And I do mean drastically.

While a select few MMA stars can truly say they are millionaires, the majority of fighters are comfortable with knowing they can make an honest, comfortable living through fighting. Money, more often than not, is the motivating factor behind an athlete's decision to get into the sport.

But for Robbie Lawler, the love of the sport is what truly drives him to this day. As cliché as it may sound, you tend to believe "Ruthless." After all, he started competing in the sport back in 2001, a time in which Lawler says the paychecks were very low.

So low, in fact, that Robbie says former UFC champs were driving rusty cars, not Bentleys.

13 years in the fight game and the No. 1-ranked welterweight in the world says you can't help but to concentrate on the dollars you can generate by punching someone in the face, but his motivation to compete at the highest level is still all about the love of the sport.

He breaks it down to MMA Weekly:

"Yeah, the thing is, when I first started fighting, there was not a lot of money being handed out by anybody. I saw UFC champions driving rusty cars. So, it obviously wasn't for the money, it was for the love of the sport. I love to compete. But, once you get in this sport, you start making a little money and you concentrate on that a little too much. I'm just happy to be back in UFC and compete and to push myself to the limits. It's awesome to come back to UFC, it reinvigorated my career and it got me excited again. Moving down to (American) Top Team, it was huge. It (still) wasn't about the money, it was about showing what I am capable of to all the fans and it's fun to be a part of this."

Lawler's pay grade has increased over time, too, as the heavy-handed brawler earned a flat rate of $83,000 for his UFC welterweight title fight against Johnny Hendricks at UFC 171 last March.

He also nabbed himself a cool $50,000 bonus for "Fight of the Night."

While that's a very nice chunk of change to put into the old piggy bank, Lawler's motivation still lies on proving he is one of the best in the world. And as he has shown, he is only getting better with time.

"Ruthless" begins his quest back to another championship fight when he faces Jake Ellenberger this weekend (May 24, 2014) at UFC 173 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For more on that fight click here.

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