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Robbie Lawler: The Long Road to Contention Ends Tomorrow at UFC 171

Robbie Lawler: The Long Road to Contention Ends Tomorrow at UFC 171

Many of our readers became fans in the last five to ten years.

You’re the fans who were introduced to the sport by way of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show which began in 2005. You got hooked on the UFC Unleashed shows that were repeated in the late 2000’s.

If you’re among them, you’ve probably caught some flack from guys like me. Maybe you remember Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin’s fight as an epic of the old school. Us old timers laugh, “You call that epic?” We point to the 90 minute battle of Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba in PRIDE in 2000, burned in our memories as a turning point in the sport’s history. We remember, and celebrate.

(Of course, guys like me vividly recall their 20th high school reunion, but not their twentieth birthday, too. We don’t celebrate that fact so much.)

For that matter, maybe you began following the sport yesterday. Welcome aboard.

Anyway, despite what a lot of old fans like me say, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of that. We were all “new fans” once, even when it was a “new sport.” It’s a sport that’s always changing and always growing.

There are a few athletes who keep re-inventing and re-introducing themselves. They’re the favorites of the old school who are giving fans a new look.

One fights this Saturday, “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler.

At UFC 171 in Dallas, Lawler will finally get the title shot which a lot of us thought he was headed for when he made his UFC debut back in 2002. That night, Lawler punched out a gritty brawl with Aaron Riley in a fight so electrifying, it would be selected to be rebroadcast on Cable TV’s “Best Damn Sports Show Period.” Lawler earned the victory that night, en route to beginning his MMA career with a 7-0 record.

Lawler was barely in his 20’s and already establishing a reputation as a relentless brawler, eager to throw down and learning the rest of the game as he goes. Training at the then-dominant Militech Fighting Systems under a former UFC titleholder in Pat Militech, Lawler seemed to have the talent and the tools to go all the way.

Lawler hit the hard times later — leg-kicked to an TKO loss at the hands (or more accurately, the shins) of Pete Spratt, knocked senseless by a young Nick Diaz, and caught in a triangle choke by the late Evan Tanner as he began a campaign at middleweight.

After the great start, Lawler seemed a 50-50 proposition.

But he soldiered on, collecting gold for Icon, Strikeforce, and Elite XC before returning to welterweight last year for the promotion where he made his name: the UFC.

Lawler, now plying his trade with American Top Team in Florida (one of the most dominant camps of the current era), entered the cage as much as a five-to-one underdog against former title challenger Josh Koscheck. Lawler knocked Koscheck out in round one, enjoying new relevance to the title picture. He has followed up the performance with wins against Bobby Voelker and today’s young prospect, Rory MacDonald.

Lawler was named last year’s breakthrough fighter of the year and comeback fighter of the year by several MMA media outlets. Most importantly, he earned this Saturday’s golden opportunity.

It’s a new day Saturday, and Robbie Lawler will finally contend for a UFC title.

He’s shown in knockout after knockout, that it’s something every fan — young and old — should get excited about.

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