Robbie Lawler plans on extending his reign as the UFC welterweight championship far beyond this Saturday’s fight with Carlos Condit at UFC 195.
“From start to finish, I’m going to be the boss in this fight,” says Lawler. “I’ll be the one controlling it, and that’s how I’m going to get the victory. I’m more disciplined now as champion—I’m sharpening stuff, more meticulous and shaving off wasted energy. I’m going to continue to grow as a champion and do my thing.”
In order for Lawler (26–10) to retain his title and win his fifth straight fight, he will need to find a way to absorb punishment from Condit (30–8), one of the most explosive strikers in all of mixed martial arts.
“Carlos is a kickboxer and he’s got a little bit of different style,” explains Lawler. “He brings everything to the table when it comes to strikes—he does spinning kicks, he does a spinning back fist, he does elbows and jump knees. He does it all, so I have to be sharp.”
Lawler captured the championship in December of 2014 in a split decision over Johnny Hendricks, and successfully defended the title against Rory MacDonald at UFC 189 this past July. He sees some similarities between MacDonald, who he defeated by knockout, and Condit.
“Condit and MacDonald are both well-rounded, but their striking is different,” says Lawler. “Both are strong, but their ground games are different. They come from some of the best camps in the world and their body types are similar, but they are totally different fighters.”
The 33-year-old Lawler first debuted for the UFC 14 years ago in 2002 at the age of 20. His experience is a major reason as to why there are ten losses on his resume–the most of any UFC champion ever—yet also the reason why the resilient Lawler is now the champ.
“I’ve competed so long,” says Lawler. “It all comes down to believing in yourself. I always believe I have a chance, and I believe in my technique and what I’ve learned. It’s just constantly believing, even when things aren’t going well, that there is hope.”
The 5’11” Lawler gives up three inches to the 6’2” Condit, whose long legs deliver devastating knees to the jaw. Nevertheless, Lawler believes the height differential plays into his favor.
“Height makes a difference when everything else is equal, but I’ve been fighting for a long time and know how to fight taller guys,” explains Lawler. “There are also challenges fighting [a shorter opponent] with the wrestling—sometimes the lower man wins. It’s just figuring out your opponent and then fighting to your strength.”
Lawler maintained that he will have to stick to his game plan, as Condit will look to deliver his nasty array of elbows and knees and exploit Lawler’s aggressive style. In preparation for the fight, Lawler trained with fighters who, like Condit, excel in striking, submissions, and endurance.
“I had to hit every aspect in my training,” says Lawler. “I’ve trained with long, tall jiu-jitsu fighters who work the same type of techniques that he tries to do. I’ll be strong, sharp and technical in those positions and I won’t get tired. It’s all about hitting those positions where I know he’s well-versed, and staying strong, technical and not getting tired. That’s how you beat him.”
The Vegas line for the fight, according to Bovada, is even. Despite the fact that Lawler has proven he can withstand punishment and deliver a ruthless assault, he was not bothered by the odds.
“That doesn’t bother me at all,” says Lawler. “I don’t focus on the outside stuff that I can’t control. I focus on how I feel, what I'm going to do, and how I’m going to go out there and win and dominate.
“This is business, so I don’t take it personally at all. I’m staying sharp and being the best fighter out there, and I’m going to show that I am the best fighter in the world.”
The key to defeating Condit, explained Lawler, is fighting smart.
“There can be no wasted movement,” says Lawler. “I’m going to be sharp, crisp and technical. Everything I do is thought out, planned and worked on, and everything is going to look good.”
Although viewed as individual sport, Lawler stressed that MMA is one of the best team games in the world, and defeating Condit will require a team effort.
“It’s definitely not just me,” says Lawler. “This is a whole collaboration of guys working to push me to the top and push me to excel. My coaches put together a game plan and lined up my training partners, and their whole mindset is, ‘How can we make this guy better?’ So I’ll do what I need to do for them to get the victory.
“Condit is definitely a different kind of challenge, but my coaches have done a great job of getting me ready in practice. My training partner emulates him and his pace. I’m ready to go—the hay is in the barn and I can’t wait.”
Lawler did not hold back when asked to give a prediction for the fight.
“It’s going to be a great one,” says Lawler. “I can’t wait to showcase my skills and go out there and get a W.”