Carlos Condit eyes UFC return in early 2015, says Robbie Lawler has best chance to dethrone Johny Hendricks

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

"The Natural Born Killer" gives an update on his surgically-repaired knee as he reveals he's eyeing a return to the cage in early 2015.

Carlos Condit suffered a torn anterior crucial ligament (ACL) and partially torn meniscus in the second round of his welterweight bout against Tyron Woodley at UFC 171 earlier this year (highlights here).

After undergoing surgery to take care of the fight-ending injury, Condit is now in the process of rehabilitation, which he revealed has been going well.

As far as a return date to the Octagon, the former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) interim welterweight champion says it will be a slow going process, as he expects to be back in action in early 2015.

"The Natural Born Killer" broke it down to MMA Fighting:

"I'm feeling pretty good. It's coming along, it's slow going, but I'm getting there. I'm probably not going to be fighting again until early next year. Right now I'm not even allowed to run, let alone hit pads or grappling or anything like that. So I got a little ways. I'm still in the gym five days a week with physical therapy, which is very involved, it's some of the hardest workouts that I've done. Also, working my upper body, doing what I can to stay fit. I can't fall off too much."

Regarding his loss to Woodley, some were quick to dismiss it, failing to call it a legitimate win thanks to the injury.

Though you may have a hard time convincing Woodley otherwise.

As far as Condit is concerned, it's a slippery slope, as he says he won't take the victory away from "The Chose One," but it doesn't hide the fact that he did get injured during the bout, which ultimately led to the "W."

He explains:

"He won the fight, I'm not going to take that away from him, but I did get injured. I don't know. He took me down, that caused the injury. But I get taken down all the time and I'm not always blowing my knees out, so..."

While Condit sits on the sideline, the welterweight division continues to press forward as plenty of worthy title contenders have emerged; including Matt Brown, Hector Lombard, Robbie Lawler, Rory MacDonald and the aforementioned Woodley.

When asked who he feels has the best chance to dethrone current division kingpin Johny Hendricks, Condit didn't hesitate in giving his selection.

"Honestly, I think it's Lawler. He looked great in his last fight. At this point, it's hard to get better because we're all really kind of at the top of our games and there are very incremental improvements, but he looks great."

Lawler came up short in his bid to capture the vacant UFC welterweight strap, losing to Johny Hendricks via unanimous decision in a "Fight of the Night" performance at UFC 171 (video).

"Ruthless" will have a chance to earn another crack at "Bigg Rigg" if he can get past Matt Brown in the main event of UFC on FOX 12 on July 26, 2014 (details).

While there's no question the landscape of the 170-pound division can change drastically in six to eight months, the one thing that is certain, is that it will get a bit more crowded at the top once Condit finds his way back to the cage.

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