Robbie Lawler has ascended to new heights since dismantling Josh Koscheck in his Octagon return back at UFC 157. With a Welterweight title now in tow, all eyes are on the brazen knockout artist.
The 33-year-old began fighting in mixed martial arts (MMA) at age 18 and very much grew up in the sport. The man we would all come to know as "Ruthless" was filled with loads of untapped potential.
Lawler harnessed a competitive spirit at an early age, which greatly impacted his professional career in the long run. However, early stints in UFC and Strikeforce brought more rain than sunshine for Pat Miletich's protege.
After competing at Middleweight for nearly a decade, "Ruthless" charted course for 170 pounds -- where he began his career -- and enlisted the coaches at American Top Team (ATT) to help him get there. The changes were remarkable, and the rest is history. Seven fights in, and 6 wins later, he became ATT owner Dan Lambert's first UFC champion.
Lawler recently took the time out to share his thoughts on the UFC 189 World Tour, his busy 2014, the new The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Rory MacDonald and Johny Hendricks with MMAmania.
How are you feeling mentally, what kind of an impression did this World Tour leave upon you?
RL: I feel good. Training is going really good -- my body feels really good after the break. I'm doing a good job of getting my body up to feel strength. I'm very powerful right now. I'm going to start to fine tune for the fight and building.
Every World Tour is a good experience. A lot of fans are out supporting the UFC and the fighters they like and are a rowdy crowd, especially in New York and Toronto.
How does it feel to be promoting a fight as the champion now?
RL: It's just part of what you have to do, you have to help promote the fight. You have to build the show ... UFC 189. That's what I do. I've been around the sport for a long time, been around Matt Hughes who had to do these types of things, but obviously the UFC is continuing to grow and do bigger things and press tours. You just have to be willing to grow with the sport.
Take us through your time off. Were there any injuries to your body?
RL: No, there was no injuries. It was just fine-tuning things. It's all about coming back to balance. A lot of the stuff we do is like in competitive nature of workouts we do. I had to get balance back into my body. I had to stretch a little bit more, build some muscle that didn't get worked as much doing a whole bunch of fighting. I wanted to get balance back to my body and also get stronger. It's kind of like one of those things when you're getting ready for a fight, you try to keep your strength and bring it with you but in the off-season is when you're able to put on some muscle and get stronger. I wasn't nursing any injuries, I needed to recover and relax a little bit.
How comfortable are you at welterweight?
RL: I'm very comfortable at 170. If Dana [White] wanted me to do a fight [outside the weight class], that's something we could discuss. I have no plans of going up in weight.
What's on your mind when you actually are on the scale?
RL: I'm excited that finally all the talk is over and I'm going to weigh-in and then eat. We're done. No more interviews. I get to go out and fight tomorrow.
You've been around the sport a long time. Were nutritionists looked down upon when you were just starting out?
RL: I don't think that they were ever looked down upon. I just think that there wasn't enough money for the fighters to be paying a trainer, manager and then a nutritionist or chef. There wasn't anything back then when I started at least. I've just been around the sport a long time. I've wrestled and I know my body. I don't necessarily need someone to hold my hand. At the same time, I do a lot reading and research. I talk to my trainer and other guys. Obviously, Matt Hughes was part of my career and made weight a lot of times. So just being around the sport, and knowing my body, seeing other people do it .... I have it figured out. Some guys just don't have it figured out.
You've studied Taekwondo. Did that inspire you to become an MMA fighter and how come we don't see that Robbie in the cage?
RL: Well, I'm a mixed martial artist and it's all about bringing everything together but I always liked martial arts growing up. I always liked fighting, boxing so Taekwondo was like the first thing my dad let me get into that was competitive and that I can learn how to fight and do what I like to do which is compete. One-on-one competition and combat was something I've always loved.
Has your love for sport and working out benefited you in MMA?
RL: For sure. Obviously, MMA is hard work. Lifting weights is hard work. Running every day is hard work. But, I love to do it. It's a passion of mine. Ever since I was in the third grade I've been lifting weights.
American Top Team vs. The Blackzilians is the new format on this season of The Ultimate Fighter. What kind of role do you play on the show?
RL: I didn't really have a huge role in it. Basically, I came there, showed support for the fighters and if they needed anything they could talk to me. If they needed me to help them with anything, I'd help them with anything.
Do you foresee your second fight with Rory playing out any differently than the initial one?
RL: I'm very excited about it and the time off. I'm excited about the work I'm about to put in. My body and mind are ready to go. I can't wait for July 11.
Your thoughts on Johny Hendricks' win over a man you fought, Matt Brown?
RL: He won his fight and that's pretty cool. Congratulations. I'm just thinking about Rory, I don't really concentrate on anyone else.
Robbie next fights the aforementioned MacDonald in the co-main event of UFC 189, which takes place inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 11, 2015.