Justin Lawrence is looking for his fifth straight win. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
If things go the way Justin Lawrence would like them to, both he and Michael Chandler will be challenging for Bellator gold in the very near future -- possibly on the same night.
When Chandler elected to leave Alliance MMA in San Diego to join the Phoenix-based Power MMA Team, Lawrence followed suit. After all, the ex-Bellator lightweight king is perhaps Lawrence’s most valued training partner.
“I kind of wanted to stick with Chandler just because we’re both in Bellator and we’re both going to be fighting a lot on the same cards. We’re both from St. Louis, I’m on my way up and he’s right there as well,” Lawrence told Sherdog.com. “We could both be in title contention in the next fight or two.
“At the end of the day, Michael Chandler has a tough style to beat. He puts on a good high pace and he’s a great wrestler. If Michael Chandler can’t hold me down, nobody in the 145 division can hold me down. I felt like that was a good move in the division sticking with him and going where he went.”
The two fighters will occupy the Bellator 145 main card on Nov. 6 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Lawrence faces Emmanuel Sanchez in a featherweight contest, while Chandler meets David Rickels in a lightweight clash. The event airs on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
Chandler’s presence isn’t the only benefit to Lawrence’s new training home, however. “The American Kid” says he has made great strides under the guidance of Power MMA strength and conditioning coach Jason Kamens.
“He doesn’t just make you do lifts to put on weight or make you get stronger. He does lifts to utilize all the movement and the key muscles that we use inside the cage,” Lawrence said. “I feel like my core, my legs and my arms have gotten in great shape and explosive. I’m just more of an athlete. When you’ve got a good skill set behind the athleticism, it’s dangerous. I feel like that what’s awesome about this camp: It really brings out the athlete in you.”
A veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter 15” and a former Resurrection Fighting Alliance titlist, Lawrence enters Bellator 145 on a four-bout winning streak. He made his promotional debut in impressive fashion, stopping the well-traveled Sean Wilson inside of a round at Bellator 138.
“[That win said that] I’m definitely a force to be reckoned with. I’m definitely gonna be making some noise and some ripples in the division,” Lawrence said. “If they’re looking over me, that’s great. I’m gonna be here for a long time, and I don’t plan on going anywhere. I haven’t peaked yet. I just really haven’t showcased what I really can do out there. I feel like this fight’s a great opportunity to go out there and do that.”
Lawrence might have had an even greater chance for exposure had his original opponent, Pat Curran, not suffered a knee injury. Instead of facing a former champion, Lawrence will lock horns with the relatively unheralded Sanchez, who dropped a unanimous verdict to Curran on short notice at Bellator 139.
“I felt like I had a lot to gain from that fight,” he admitted. “Stylistically, my training hasn’t really changed... I had Pat Curran locked in my head for quite some time. I couldn’t be any happier with the matchup with Emmanuel. He’s a tough competitor and a guy to definitely climb the ladder on.”
Even with the opponent change, Lawrence believes he has a chance to put himself on the fast track to a 145-pound title shot with the right kind of showing. At the very least, it could set the stage for a future showdown with Curran.
“With a dominant performance I feel like I can definitely launch myself in that picture,” Lawrence said. “I could see them wanting me to get a hold of Pat, and that’s a fight that I really want. I’m not trying to look past Emmanuel Sanchez by any means, but a fight with Pat would definitely solidify me in the division. I have to get through a young and hungry Emmanuel Sanchez first.
“If I go out there and put on a dominating performance, I can’t be ignored.”