SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Robbie Lawler believes he’s ready for another shot at the UFC welterweight championship he let slip through his hands four months ago.
A number of fighters in the division can make the same claim. But the 32-year-old Lawler is the clear-cut favorite with four wins and a narrow loss in his five fights since returning to the UFC.
“Everything’s clicking at the right time,” Lawler said. “Before, I wasn’t ready for the stage. I didn’t want to do these interviews. I didn’t want to be in front of the cameras. I just wanted to beat people up and get out. I’ve grown up now. I’m doing what it takes to be a really good fighter.”
Lawler’s lone loss since coming back was to Johny Hendricks at UFC 171 in March when the two fought for the vacant title left open after former champ Georges St. Pierre stepped down, saying he needed a break from the sport.
Lawler (23-10, 19 KOs) is expected to get another crack at Hendricks, provided the top-ranked contender beats knockout artist Matt Brown (21-11, 13 KOs) in Saturday’s main event at the SAP Center.
It will be the Lawler’s fifth fight in the past year. Included in those were knockout wins against Bobby Voelker and Jake Ellenberger, and a split-decision over Rory MacDonald.
The win over Ellenberger on May 24 put Lawler firmly back into the title hunt after his loss to Hendricks in March.
“It’s good. It kept me busy, kept me working,” Lawler said. “I didn’t have to go into these last two camps trying to get into shape, so I could work on things. I could work on fine-tuning skills and just get better day to day.”
Lawler left the UFC a decade ago after consecutive losses to Nick Diaz and Evan Turner in 2004. On the fast track since his return, Lawler acknowledged he has watched very little tape of the scrappy Brown, who has won his past seven fights — six by knockout.
“I didn’t watch any Ellenberger fights either,” Lawler said. “I have about five or six coaches that do all the breaking down for me, and then they put me in those situations in practice. It’s always worked out pretty good. So when I’m in the fight, I’ve already been there a million times.”
Hendricks, on the mend from an arm injury, has already made it clear he expects to fight the winner of the Lawler-Brown matchup, possibly early next year.
That’s fine with Lawler, who plans to take a much-needed respite following his fight with Brown.
Brown, ranked fifth in the welterweight division, is also looking to use the fight as a springboard into title contention. The 33-year-old veteran fighter hasn’t lost since getting submitted by Seth Baczynski at UFC 139 in 2011.
Brown is considered one of the most intense fighters in the UFC, and he did nothing to dispel that reputation during a public workout earlier this week. He brushed off talk of being an underdog and took a minor dig at his opponent when asked if he was a fan of Lawler.
“I was more of a Nick Diaz fan when he knocked (Lawler) out,” Brown said with a laugh.
To prepare for the fight, Brown said he reverted back to his former style of training after previously being criticized for overworking. The workouts included carrying wheelbarrows and sleds, along with other fighters, up long, steep mountain trails.
“I said, ‘Let’s go back to being raw, crazy, stupid … in our backyard and just wrecking each other every day,'” Brown said. “I think it worked out good. We brought in tough guys and we just beat the (heck) out of each other. It’s called getting back to the primitive, back to the raw, back to what’s real. Back to what got me here.”
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