Hard-hitting Lawler lets fists do talking
Robbie Lawler isn’t flamboyant. He’s not outspoken. He’s not the kind of guy who will come within a mile of controversy.
His answers are short, to the point and, more often than not, trite and politically correct. You won’t find his name in the gossip columns and you won’t hear him talking trash about anyone he’s going to fight.
There is a lot he doesn’t do.
But when the cage is shut and the bell sounds at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Saturday, Lawler’s actions will speak volumes. He’s a powerful striker and one of the world’s elite middleweights.
He won’t send a crowd into a frenzy by predicting all sorts of doom and peril for his opponent, but he’ll throw it into a frenzy by inflicting said doom and peril once the fight begins.
“You know, I’m just a guy who loves to fight,” said Lawler, who stopped hard-hitting Scott Smith in his last fight. “Interviews are not my thing. I do what I have to do. It’s my job and I do it, but I’d rather be fighting. I’m into training, getting better, testing myself and then going out and trying to win a fight. The PR and all that stuff? It’s not really what I want to be doing.”
He’ll face perhaps the fight of his life on Saturday when he meets Jake Shields, another underappreciated and under-recognized fighter who ranks among the world’s top 10 welterweights. The match between Lawler, the former EliteXC middleweight champion, and Shields, EXC’s welterweight kingpin, will be held at a catchweight of 182 pounds.
The bout pits one of the world’s top middleweights against one of its top welterweights, but has gotten somewhat lost in the hype that has surrounded Kimbo Slice’s decision to appear on an upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Shields has long sought a marquee opponent to give him visibility and to affirm his status as one of the world’s best.
Lawler will provide him with the perfect foil. Lawler is bigger, stronger and more powerful, but Shields is quicker, more technical and has a vast repertoire of submissions.
Shields would love to get the fight to the floor and turn it into a grappling contest, but he’s aware of the fact that the fight is being televised nationally by Showtime and of the importance of putting on a good show.
“It’s very important to put on entertaining fights because, in this business, you really need to make people want to see you,” Shields said. “This isn’t the time to grind it out and play it safe and try to get the (decision).”
Shields didn’t play it safe when he took the bout. He’s comfortable fighting at 170 but will move up 10 pounds to face the larger man with the larger potential payoff.
When Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker initially talked to Shields about a fight, he suggested Joe Riggs as an opponent. But when Strikeforce needed a main-event opponent opposite Lawler, Shields was the perfect choice.
Coker asked and Shields quickly accepted, a move that didn’t sit particularly well with Riggs. Riggs trashed Shields on the Internet, but Shields just shrugged.
“I’m taking a bigger fight against a better opponent for more money,” Shields said. “And I hadn’t even signed (to fight) Riggs. He’s just whining and trying to call attention to himself. I would have been a fool to say no to this chance.”
Lawler is glad Shields said yes. He’ll have a chance to test himself against perhaps his most gifted opponent.
Lawler has come a long way since his days as one of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s hottest young prospects. He’s won five of his past six, with a no-contest, and has gotten past quality opponents such as Smith, Frank Trigg and Murilo “Ninja” Rua.
A win over Shields would be significant for Lawler and would be a payoff for the work he’s put in on his game. He still believes he’s only 60 percent of the way to fulfilling his potential, but wants to see the fruits of his labor in a fight against a quality opponent.
“The fight is the payoff for all the work we do,” Lawler said. “I think I’ll be better in this fight than I was in my last fight because I’ve really pushed myself. But I know I have a lot to learn. I need to get better on my standup, my wrestling, my jiu-jitsu, pretty much everything.
“You can never stop learning in this sport. It’s constantly evolving and you have to go with it. This will be a great way for me to measure how far I’ve come, against a guy as good as Jake.”