“Ruthless” Robbie Lawler caught up with Eddie Mercado of Bloody Elbow for an interview | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Check out our exclusive interview with UFC/MMA legend ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler—who talks about his ferocity, longevity, and the one thing he would change about the sport of MMA.
MMA royalty isn’t a term to throw around lightly, but no title may be more fitting when talking about a man like ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler. He’s the former UFC welterweight champion, the former EliteXC middleweight champ, and has run roughshod over the sport for more than two decades with one of the most ferocious styles MMA has ever seen.
Coming off of a TKO victory in his 17-years-in-the-making rematch with Nick Diaz at UFC 266, Lawler caught up with Bloody Elbow to discuss the roots of his ruthlessness, settling the score with Diaz, keys to longevity in such a tough sport, and the one thing that he would change about MMA if he could.
I found out I was going to be interviewing Robbie Lawler, so I went back and got to watch a bunch of your old fights. I had so much fun doing that, too. Do you ever go and watch your own matches and highlights, and just sit there entertained?
“No, I don’t really watch any of my fights. I’m kind of, a little bit, in the present. Those things were great at the time, but I’m focusing on how I can get better now—and trying to get my teammates better also.”
Yeah, I saw your boy Logan Storley let his hands go recently against Neiman Gracie in the Bellator 274 main event. You were cornering him for that, right?
“Yeah, it was awesome! He fought really well. First time really standing up and trusting in his standup. He went 25-minutes. Neiman’s a really good fighter; I mean has descent hands and was trying to set up some things. But Logan kept the pressure on him, and hurt him a couple of time, and dug deep when it mattered.”
Your style is so aggressive and ferocious. I know you came up with Pat Miletich and the Miletich Fighting Systems, but you had that intensity when you got there. So, when did you realize that you had that fire burning inside of you that other people didn’t have?
“Well I did martial arts pretty much my whole life, and wanted to fight my whole life. I had an older brother who would beat me up. I wanted to train and do martial arts, so my dad let me in Tae Kwon Do. I wanted to do boxing, but he put me in Tae Kwon Do. And I just kept working on my stuff, my striking. I would watch boxing, Tuesday Night Fights, continue to work on my skills, and it was just a natural progression. That’s just how I fight, how I play sports in general. I’m just always trying to do big things; trying to finish, I guess, and get after it. And it shows when I fight.”
Who are some of the fighters that you watch and admire?
“Growing up I just watched as much fighting as I could. Learned something from Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield—just trying to pick and choose bits and pieces from different styles and different fighters; watched movies growing up, like Rocky, and those types of movies. I always thought, like, push comes to shove, ‘Are you going to dig deep and get after it, or are you going to crumble?’ So my mindset was always, ‘Get after it, figure out a way to win.’ And that’s what I’ve always tried to do. Sometimes it didn’t always work out that way, but that was always the intent.”
Was Tim Sylvia really wearing his UFC heavyweight belt to the grocery store?
“I don’t know about that. I didn’t follow him to the grocery store, so who knows.”
That was a rumor I heard, and I didn’t know who else to ask.
“Here’s the thing, even if he did he was obviously proud of his accomplishments, and to each their own, right? [laughs]”
Oh I totally respect it. I would do the same exact thing. Like I said, If I were Robbie Lawler, I would just sit around watching Robbie Lawler fights all day.
“[laughs] That’s funny.”
So, you’re coming off of a TKO victory over Nick Diaz. It was a rematch 17-years in the making. You’re always the consummate professional. It’s strictly business for you, but was there a part of you that was really happy to get that one back?
“I mean, obviously it was a big fight; he’s a big name. First time coming back for a while for him. When it got offered to me I was excited. It was the first time in a while that I was excited to fight and go out there and showcase my skills and get after it, training-wise. He brought the best out of me, but it didn’t really change anything. 17-years later—I mean, I won this time, he still beat me last time. I learned a lot from that first fight, and it’s gotten me to where I am today. So, I wouldn’t change anything.”
What did it feel like stopping someone who is as traditionally durable as Nick Diaz?
“I meeeeean, I’ve stopped a few people here and there. It’s just part of the sport, it was just my night. He came out and fought hard; I did a great job of getting ready. My coaches did a great job of pushing me, making sure my skills were where they needed to be. And I was in shape. That’s what showed that night. And it was my night.”
So Nick won one, and you won one. Will we ever get a third?
“I have no idea. I don’t think so, but I haven’t really looked into it. I’m kind of just working on my skills, trying to get stronger, and those types of things. The UFC will come to me with something good and I’ll be back in there.”
You looked fantastic against Diaz. What would you say is the key to longevity in such a tough sport?
“A foundation: starting and doing it right from the start, making sure you’re taking care of your body. You can’t just keep running through injuries, and working through injuries. you have to be smart and listen to your body and make sure you’re taking care of it. I know you have to take rests, it’s not always training. Sometimes you need to rest and let yourself heal. So, it’s just figuring out your body—and having good training partners around you, so you can work on your skills, and not get beat up too bad.
“Really it comes down to base fundamentals. My skill-set is not something where I need to be super fast, super this or that. It’s methodical, I break you down with how I fight. So I’m not necessarily using athleticism. Sometimes that comes out, but it’s more sound fundamentals. Those types of things last forever, as you get old they don’t deteriorate as much as speed does.”
Would you say that contributes why your cardio holds up late in fights?
“Yeah, I think it’s those types of things. But it also comes down to: when I’m in there, I’m fighting with my spirit. So when you’re having fun, and you’re fighting with your spirit, you’re not going to get tired. You look at those kids that are like eight, five, ten—they never get tired. Why? Because they’re having fun. They’re just enjoying themselves. So, I feel like if I’m having fun, and letting everything hang out, then I’m going to last forever. It’s just part of it. It’s when it’s work, and you’re not having fun, it’s just rough and sluggish. Try to keep it light and enjoy every moment.”
That makes total sense. We were all kids, and I don’t ever remember being tired as a child.
“Yeah you wold play all night if your parents didn’t call you in. You would just keep playing and playing, and running as fast as you can. I mean, that’s kind of sport. If you’re enjoying yourself, having fun, then you can fight well.”
What are you doing for recovery at this stage in your career? Logan Storley was telling me about how he uses Kill Cliff CBD drinks to combat inflammation.
“I definitely use the [Kill Cliff] CBD recovery drink. not only does it have CBD in it, it has some vitamins, ginseng, stuff like that. But it tastes good too, which is awesome. Obviously I do cold tubs, saunas, and these types of things—but if you’re doing multiple workouts then it’s nice to get a little energy boost from a little CBD and caffeine and a little vitamins in there. Kill Cliff did a great job of having an amazing drink.”
If there was one thing that you could change about the sport of MMA what would it be?
“I would obviously like the fighters to get paid more. But, I’d also like them to have something like a pension after the fact, so that they’re getting paid—those types of things. Obviously, everyone’s not going to make it to the highest level and make a whole bunch of money winning world titles, but once you get to the UFC, Bellator – these bigger organizations – I think there needs to be some sort of—kind of like the NFL does. I mean they take care of their guys after—at least try to. And the NBA does a great job, and baseball probably does the same thing, where guys are still continuing to get something after they’re done with the sport. So if there’s a way that we could get this for the fighters it’d be awesome.”