Even the most satisfying of victories in mixed martial arts (MMA) last for only mere moments before the attention is turned toward the future. Even before "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler was able to shed the ecstasy of a UFC title victory, fans and pundits alike were asking the newly minted champion "what's next?"
Lawler earned UFC gold this past Saturday night (Dec. 6, 2014), defeating former champion Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks in yet another epic title fight that went the distance. "Ruthless" earned a split-decision nod over Hendricks in their rematch, but Lawler may have to set his focus on the former champion once again for a trilogy bout in early 2015.
While Lawler asked for a respite from UFC at the post-fight press conference after a busy 2014, fans can expect to see "Ruthless" take center stage to defend his UFC title somewhat early on in 2015, potentially around March or April.
The question is, who will Lawler be making his first title defense against? One thing is for certain: It will be a rematch against either Rory MacDonald or Johny Hendricks.
Dana White promised No. 1 contender Rory MacDonald a crack at UFC gold once Hendricks and Lawler settled their score, but the UFC president may be backtracking on that statement after a "Ruthless" victory and an opportunity for an epic trilogy bout.
In White's post-event interview with Ariel Helwani, the UFC president noted that "Rory MacDonald actually thought Lawler won the fight. We said he'd get the next shot at the title, but the trilogy wouldn't be a bad idea."
With the trilogy threatening MacDonald's chances of fighting for UFC gold, the Canadian star could find himself on the outside looking in once again.
At the end of the day, UFC is going to choose the contender that is best for its business, and at this point it will be tough to choose. Hendricks is undoubtedly a blossoming star, but MacDonald has the potential to be a monumental Canadian star in similar fashion to his teammate and former UFC champion Georges St-Pierre.
UFC rarely gives up opportunities for trilogy fights, but it may not be a bad thing to have Hendricks fight a contender as MacDonald and Lawler settle things inside the Octagon. Although MacDonald lost a tough split decision to Lawler at the end of 2013 that derailed his chances to fight for UFC gold, the Canadian MMA star has rebounded by defeating three top-10 opponents in increasingly impressive fashion.
In my opinion, UFC must reward MacDonald for the work he has put in, and he most definitely deserves a shot at the "Ruthless" one. Ultimately, the welterweight title picture will simply be a waiting game as Lawler enjoys some time off and UFC makes a tough decision.