You wouldn’t know it from watching his epic UFC 189 encounter with Rory MacDonald, but Robbie Lawler recognizes the value of self-preservation as much as the next guy.
Lawler’s first welterweight title defense was a bloody, brutal, back-and-forth affair. The American Top Team product was rocked and nearly finished by a head kick in the third round and had his upper lip torn apart before shattering MacDonald’s nose with a straight left to end the contest in the fifth stanza. Both combatants were transported to the hospital following the encounter, which is atop more than a few ballots for 2015’s “Fight of the Year.”
While the bout was only the latest in a string of memorable battles for Lawler, he admits that he would prefer to have a short day at the office over an epic slugfest whenever possible.
“You don’t want to have to showcase your warrior spirit or how much heart you have in a fight,” Lawler said during a conference call to promote UFC 195, where he will defend his title against Carlos Condit in the main event. “You want to go out there and you want to be sharp and you want to execute your game plan and go out there and get it done fast.
“So, push comes to shove, every fighter wants to get it done as soon as possible and take the least amount of damage as possible.”
Lawler can dictate the tone and tempo in a fight to a certain extent, but he has much more control over his training and preparation. In recent years, the man known as “Ruthless” has adopted a smarter approach to full-contact practice.
“I think when I first came back to the UFC I did a lot of sparring and had to work on stuff and sharpen up my skills and got them to a higher level,” he said. “And now I have really good training partners that we work back and forth. We can put the pedal to the metal and we don’t try to bang each other up but we get good work in and get our heart rate up and go to work.
“I work on my techniques, work and my strengths and make sure I’m staying sharp so that’s really the main focus is just staying sharp, staying healthy and being able to fight,” he continued. “When push comes to shove, I’m always ready to go. But I don’t think you need to show your toughness in training practice. I think I show my toughness when the cameras are on it and in front of the big lights and all the fans.”
Prior to facing MacDonald, Lawler engaged in a pair of grueling five-round battles with Johny Hendricks. Now, with a like-minded foe in Condit up next, it appears that another fan-friendly scrap could be in store.
“I just think I’m just getting matched up against opponents who are pushing me and my coaches are pushing me,” Lawler said. “It’s just two styles that happen to keep clashing that guys just aren’t willing to go down easy. And it shows just the talent level of the UFC and the hearts of some of the fighters that I face they’re willing to battle.”
With each fight seemingly more violent than the last, Lawler doesn’t have too much time to admire his handiwork -- even his instant classic with MacDonald this past summer.
“Obviously it’s hard to move on from a fight like that, but mentality-wise it’s like, ‘OK, I did some great stuff and I showed some heart,’ but it’s just you have to be a professional,” he said. “I can’t pat myself on the back for seven months and think that’s just going to get me another victory. I have to go out there and continue to compete, continue to push myself to get better and that’s what I’m going to do. It’s part of being a professional.”