And the crowd loved it. But despite his pleasing style, Lawler’s propensity for fireworks is for strictly selfish reasons.
“I know that they’re going to be watching me and that they like my style, but that’s just the way I fight,” said Lawler. “It’s just natural to do things like that. If I play baseball I’m going to hit home runs; if I’m playing defensive end I’m going to get sacks, and I’m going to make it look exciting. That’s just the way I do stuff. It’s not that I’m trying to do it. It’s just natural. If the crowd likes it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t, but usually they do.”
Born in San Diego, Lawler moved to Iowa as a youngster, and his fighting instincts were honed early in life.
“I always liked to fight,” he said. “My brother beat me up, and when we went to school, kids would see who was the toughest kid out in the schoolyard. It was just a natural instinct to fight and roll around. My dad got me into martial arts when I was little, but then I moved to Iowa and started wrestling, which I had never done before. Then Pat (Miletich) would come up to the high school and train. He saw that I was a pretty tough kid and he told me to come up and train with him.”
Things moved fast for Lawler, who quickly gained a reputation for his heavy hands after making his debut with a 14 second KO of Landon Shalter at IFC Warriors Challenge 13 in June of 2001. His training with the Miletich team has undoubtedly enhanced his natural talents, but in a stark contrast to the patient styles of Pat Miletich, Jeremy Horn, Matt Hughes or Jens Pulver, Lawler fights as if double-parked. Why the contrast?
“When you play football and you score touchdowns, you don’t want to march the ball down the field, you want to run it in on the kickoff, or intercept the ball and run it back to keep scoring,” said Lawler. “That’s what I want to do, as long as my body can keep up and I don’t get tired.”
Miletich and company won’t let him get tired, and Lawler’s rapid ascent is just another example of the value of having a talented training team behind you, pushing you to greater heights than you would have attained by training alone.
“It’s a big part of my success so far,” said Lawler of his training team. “You train with them and learn so much. They’ve been in the big matches, and they know the little things. I’ve been hanging out with Jens for about a year and a half now. We’ve become good friends and he’s coming out with me for my fight. It’s just good for your confidence to say, ‘I just boxed Pat Miletich.’ What does Steve Berger bring to the table that Pat can’t?”
To most insiders, Berger’s only chance to avoid becoming another KO victim is to get Lawler to the mat, a foreign area to the bomb-dropping youngster. Lawler expects as much, and he’s ready.
“I expect him to try to take me to the mat,” said Lawler. “Other than that, he’s real good on his submissions and his standup is pretty good. But I think he’s going to try to shoot in, take me to the mat and submit me. I move well on the ground, so if he gives me an inch, I’ll probably get back to my feet pretty easily. I’ll get some underhooks, get good position and get out.”
Robbie Lawler has been a pro fighter for slightly over a year, and at the very least, the next year and beyond should be an interesting one. For Lawler, it’s no surprise. Everything is going according to plan.
“I just talked to one of my friends a couple of months ago, and he said, ‘A year and a half ago you said you were going to be in the UFC in about two years, and you finally made it.’ I knew I would. I just have a knack for fighting,” said Lawler. “If you want to be the best in the sport you have to train like that. I really want to be the best one of these days. I’m young, I have five fights under my belt and I figure I have a long way to go. But eventually I want to be the best.”