Tom Lawlor takes no issue with any of his peers who walked stone-faced to the cage, seemingly oblivious to what is happening around them. Music will be blasting, the crowd will be roaring and some men are outwardly emotionless in the final moments before they fight.
That will never be Tom Lawlor. He is an entertainer and, from the minute he comes into public view until he's in the locker room, he views himself as a performer as much as an athlete.
"It's a sport, yes," Lawlor said of mixed martial arts, "but sports are meant to be entertaining in one form or another. At an NBA basketball game, they announce the players and when they're running through the team, they're jumping around pumped up and they have their own entrance music and what not.
"A lot of people get lost in the aspect of, 'Aw, man, I'm a fighter. I'm really tough. I'm not going to show any emotion or have a sense of humor.' That's just not my style. I'd rather have a good time and go out there and lose than hate my life and go out there and win."
Lawlor, who fights Jason MacDonald on Tuesday at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va., on UFC on Fuel 3, is heavily influenced during his entrances by professional wrestling.
He grew up "a huge, diehard pro wrestling fan," and one of his most talked-about entrances in the UFC was when he emulated Hulk Hogan's walkout.
He walked to the cage for his Ultimate Fight Night bout against Aaron Simpson to the strains of Rick Derringer's "I am a Real American," which became Hogan's anthem when he arrived in the WWF (now known as the WWE) in the mid-1980s.
Lawlor strutted to the cage the way Hogan did, putting his hand to his ear in an effort to make the crowd cheer. When it was time to actually walk to the cage and fight, Lawlor ripped his t-shirt off his body and flung it to the crowd the way Hogan once did.
Lawlor, though, faced a problem that never confronted Hogan: Most MMA fighters are highly dependent upon their sponsors, who pay money so that their logo is seen on the fighter during the TV broadcast as often as possible.
Ripping a shirt to shreds doesn't do much to give visibility to a sponsor's logo.
"The one people comment on the most is probably my Hulk Hogan entrance, but that's probably my least favorite one," Lawlor said. "I'm handcuffed a little by the walkout shirts that I get and the gear I have to wear because I have to make some extra money somehow. I'll take what I can get. It left me without being able to do a full Hulk Hogan entrance the way I would have done had I not had that issue."
He's fond of his entrance at UFC 139 in November, when he walked to the cage wearing 1980s workout gear as Olivia Newton John's "Let's Get Physical" played in the arena.
And now he vows to have a special entrance set for Tuesday's match against MacDonald, though he concedes most folks may not totally get it.
"This is probably going to be the most obscure entrance yet," said Lawlor, who would give no clues. "I pretty much expect no laughter except from the really, really hardcore fans. If you have been watching since 2000, OK, you might get it, but that's going to be about it, though I personally think it's great."
He's hoping to get back on track after a loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 139 and losses in three of his last four fights. He's 3-3 in the UFC, including a win over C.B. Dollaway at UFC 100 in which his training partner, Seth Petruzelli, got down on all fours and was "walked" to the ring on a leash by Lawlor as "Who Let the Dogs Out" blared.
As much as he wants to have a good time, Lawlor knows that it's important to win to keep his job. He said he's looking for a strike-heavy performance against MacDonald.
"MacDonald's a hard guy to submit," Lawlor said. "Joe Doerksen caught him in a Kimura and had his arm all the way back behind his head, and MacDonald was able to tough through it. So, you might not see a lot of submission attempts from me, but I've been working on my striking for this fight a lot.
"I think we have a great game plan for this fight, and I say that even though I talk about the fact that I usually don't game plan much. But his strengths fall pretty well in line into what I'm looking to do in this fight."
What he'll be looking to do most of all, though, is to have fun. When he's long retired from the UFC, it won't be the wins and the losses that he remembers so much as the smiles he created and the laughs he got.
Cyndi Lauper might sing that "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," but Tom Lawlor is living proof that boys do, too.
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