Dana White had nothing but praise for the welterweight challenger after UFC 189. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The epic welterweight title clash between Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald at UFC 189 was the type of fight that can elevate both combatants, no matter the outcome.
It’s also the type of slugfest that can shave years off a career. Neither Lawler nor MacDonald were present at Saturday’s post-fight press conference, as both fighters were transported to the hospital following a brutal, back-and-forth encounter.
“When Rory got out back, they asked him what year is it and he didn’t know what year it was,” UFC President Dana White said. “It was a complete display of chin, heart, grit, dogged determination and the will to win from both guys. When I said [best] fight ever, that’s what I’m talking about.”
A straight left from Lawler in round five shattered MacDonald’s already mangled nose, which might have been broken in the opening frame, and the Tristar Gym product fell to the canvas in obvious agony. Lawler, his upper lip ripped nearly in half, needed just a couple follow-up blows to clinch his first ever title defense. Later, a picture surfaced of the two combatants embracing at the hospital in a show of mutual respect.
It was an impressive rally for Lawler, who was rocked by a head kick and on the brink of defeat in the third round.
“I was definitely dinged in that flurry but I wasn’t going down,” Lawler said. “Nobody is taking this belt. I attacked that nose and I knew he couldn’t continue to take those shots. It was the culmination of a beat down and he finally went down. Rory is as tough as nails, but I’m the best in the world.”
Lawler’s finish proved timely, as all three cageside judges had MacDonald up 39-37 heading into round five. White was impressed by the sense of urgency displayed by both men.
“If you look at Rory MacDonald, his nose was broken in the first round. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see, continued to fight, and it’s looking like a one-sided clinic,” White said. “Then he hurts Robbie Lawler and follows up with like 10 head kicks and doesn’t finish Lawler. Lawler makes it through that. I had it 2-2 going into the fifth round. I’m not a judge so who gives a s--t what I think. But both guys had to feel like, ‘I have to win this last round.’ Both guys [were] unbelievably hurt, and then you see the outcome.”
Although Lawler improved to 2-0 against MacDonald, the close nature of both victories -- the first one was a split verdict at UFC 167 -- means that “The Red King” shouldn’t be far from title contention. That is, assuming MacDonald returns to peak form following his war of attrition with Lawler.
“The rest of the division is going to have to get though him to try to get to Lawler,” White said. “Guys who know the fight business, a fight like tonight can change you, too. We’ll see what Rory’s got when he comes back, but right now he’s the second baddest dude in the world in the 170-pound division.”
White wasn’t the only one who had high praise for the welterweight title fight. Conor McGregor, whose headlining clash with Chad Mendes dominated the fight week spotlight, took time out of his coronation to marvel at what Lawler and MacDonald did in the Octagon.
“That Robbie and Rory fight was absolutely phenomenal. I must pay my respect to that,” he said. “Two absolute warriors [who] took every shot and still came forward. This is what this sport is about.”