At 35 years old with 40 professional fights under his belt, there isn’t much that Robbie Lawler hasn’t seen in mixed martial arts.
After having trained at renowned camps such as Miletich Fighting Systems and American Top Team during his career, Lawler feels obligated to share some of the knowledge he has gained over the years. That’s why Lawler, who now trains under Henri Hooft, doesn’t get bored with the day-to-day grind of the sport.
“It is a lot of routine, but it has to do with pushing myself and evolving and actually helping others,” Lawler said on the UFC “Unfiltered” podcast. “When I go to the gym they see what kind of training I do. I make sure I’m helping other fighters and helping them get prepared for their fights also. It’s give and take, and it’s all about giving back in this sport.
“I have a lot of great champions around me when I was coming up trying to prepare me for what I was in store for, so I think I just need to pay it forward and let all these future fighters learn from me.”
Lawler isn’t completely settling into a mentor role just yet. The former UFC welterweight king is still one of the top contenders in the division, and he could put himself right back into the title picture when he faces Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC on Fox 26 headliner in Winnipeg on Saturday. Lawler rebounded from losing the title to Tyron Woodley via first-round knockout with a unanimous decision triumph over Donald Cerrone at UFC 214 on July 29.
Given his age and number of fights, Lawler is aware that he must listen to his body to continue performing at a high level.
“I feel like I’m definitely taking care of my body, being smart, knowing when to rest, when to tone it down, when to push the tempo with my training,” he said. “It’s just fine-tuning everything, having the right people around me and just being relaxed.”
A significant part of Lawler’s longevity is his approach to sparring. While he completely gave it up for a while, “Ruthless” now picks his spots for when to spar.
“As soon as you realize you’re tough and you know what you’re into, now it’s just about fine tuning everything and being more professional about it,” he said. “It’s not taking beatings when you don’t have to. It’s just something I did naturally. Right now I spar. I didn’t spar for like five or six years earlier in my career…It’s smart sparring. I’m not gonna beat the s—t out of my partner, but if he steps it up, I’m gonna step it up one step just above him. But keep everything civilized and work on our skills, get our bodies in shape and sharpen everything.”
According to Lawler, it would be different for a younger fighter with limited MMA experience.
“I think there’s definitely a place and a time for hard sparring. But I think when you realize you’re tough and you’re willing to grit stuff out, I don’t think you need to do that every day,” Lawler said. “It’s good for people to realize what they’re getting into. They need to have that in their life. Fighting is obviously not just punching somebody. It’s getting punched and learning how to roll with the punches, learning how to hit back and there’s a lot of give and take with the sport.”