Pat Miletich brought Robbie Lawler up in MMA.
It was under Miletich’s tutelage that Lawler debuted in the UFC and looked liked one of the most promising 170-pound fighters in the world. Years later, Lawler’s finally realizing that potential, but his trademark southpaw stance might have been conventional if he’d been more forthright with his trainer.
“A lot of wrestlers will put their strong side forward in wrestling matches,” Miletich told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Rewind” show Sunday after Lawler was narrowly defeated by Johny Hendricks in a UFC welterweight title fight. “So you see a lot of wrestlers that will try to do that early in their MMA career and they end up not being able to box worth a s--t because of it. But I asked Rob, I said, ‘Are you right- or left-handed?’ And he said, ‘I’m a lefty.’”
Lawler, like the fighters Miletich mentioned, wrestled in high school, presumably with his right foot forward. In boxing, that makes you a southpaw. When Miletich asked Lawler which hand he was, Lawler apparently fudged and kept the stance he was used to.
“He lied to me, so I trained him as a lefty,” Miletich said with a laugh. “Robbie’s always been a righty, but he fought left because he has power in both hands. I think he just wanted to be a southpaw because he knew southpaws gave people problems.”
It’s all worked out just fine for Lawler. He came up short Saturday against Hendricks, losing a closely contested unanimous decision, but he remains one of the best welterweights in the world. If Miletich had known Lawler was right-handed, though, he likely would have been fighting right-handed Saturday night.
“I would have trained him as a conventional fighter,” Miletich said. “If I knew he was a right-handed fighter, I would have made him stand the other way. But he knew the boxing game so much. He had watched it growing up so much and loved to analyze it and fight so much that I think he just knew that lefties gave people nightmares and he went, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be a lefty.’”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at :25).