Fight Psyche: The sharpening of Robbie Lawler

Robbie Lawler has always had power in his strikes. He had it as a teenager, when he won eight out of his first nine MMA fights via finishes, and he has it now, 15 years later, as the UFC welterweight champion.

Early in his career, Lawler entered fights as a ball of emotion but eventually realized that it didn’t help him win. So the 33-year-old welterweight and his team worked hard to turn him into the aggressive tactician that he is today. "My coaches have done a great job with me," he told FOX Sports recently in Las Vegas.

"I’ve always tried to work on it but it was more than me working on it, it was my coaches saying, ‘Hey, chill out. Just don’t go in there. You’re a lot more tactical, you’re a lot sharper than that, so be sharp.’ So, my coaches telling me, and me thinking it, helped get it done."

Lawler and his American Top Team coaches have indeed been getting it done, to the tune of seven wins in eight bouts, going back to 2013. The “Ruthless” thinking-brawler has been a part of brutal and frequent ring battles for the past couple of years.

In fact, from the outside, it would appear as though he’s often rushed into fights too soon to be healthy, with little rest between training camps, scarring fights like his last one in July against Rory MacDonald, and his UFC 195 headlining title defense this Saturday against Carlos Condit. Lawler admitted that fighting so often and quickly hasn’t always been his idea.

"Well, a lot of times, my schedule was dictated by, ‘Hey, we need you here,’" he explained.

"And I was thinking, ‘If I go there, then I’ll get to where I need to be. So, more rest would be awesome, but guess what, that’s the date, so let’s figure out how to make this work.’"

With that said, Lawler also told us that he’s become an expert at maximizing rest time. Less savvy and experienced fighters may have felt that even this conversation — just a few weeks from his fight with Condit, far away from home — would be a distraction and draining. 

Lawler, however, has learned to even use his media obligations as opportunities to rest his mind and body. These days, Lawler takes rest whenever and wherever he can get it.

He does his hard banging in fights, not in between them. "As I’ve been able to get rest, I actually rest my body. I’m not just going 24/7. I may take three days off where I’m like, ‘Alright, let’s reboot and get my body back,’" he revealed.

"You can only stay at a high level so long before you need to rest your body. So, I’ve done a great job of letting my body rest. Just like this weekend. People tell me, ‘this is right before your fight, are you sure it’s a good idea to do media?’ But to me, this is rest, where I can recover and feel great. I feel amazing."

Lawler’s ambitious schedule is maintained by smart, consistent and safe preparation in between his bouts. It all may be taxing beyond what he realizes or admits, but it’s also establishing an impressive legacy.

In the end, Lawler’s lofty goals might require the breakneck pace he’s kept in his second UFC run. "I just want to be a better fighter, plain and simple," he recently told Countdown to UFC 195 cameras.

"Every day I need to get better. I need to get stronger, I need to get faster. I want to go out there and be clean in my performances, and showcase great knockouts."