Old-school cool: Robbie Lawler isn't letting Colby Covington's shtick get to him

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Robbie Lawler speaks to the media during UFC open workouts at the Prudential Center on July 31, 2019, in Newark, New Jersey. (Getty Images)
Robbie Lawler speaks to the media during UFC open workouts at the Prudential Center on July 31, 2019, in Newark, New Jersey. (Getty Images)

Robbie Lawler isn’t going to fill a notebook with outrageous lines. He’s not going to pull stunts and play a role like Colby Covington, his opponent on Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, in the main event of UFC on ESPN 5, repeatedly does.

The one thing Lawler will fill as well as anyone, though, is a highlight reel.

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In the build-up to their fight, Covington has dubbed Lawler a traitor for choosing to leave the American Top Team, where they once were teammates. Covington showed up at a media event with three women whose job was apparently to smile and pose for photos while Covington talked.

And boy, has he talked. He’s basically stolen Conor McGregor’s shtick and has made an effort to be as outrageous as possible in order to get his face on camera and his name in the headlines.

If it’s supposed to have an impact on Lawler, it’s hard to tell.

“I don’t pay much attention to it,” Lawler said of Covington’s antics. “Everyone is going to do what they think they need to do in order to get where they want to go. That’s it and it is what it is. I just have a different view. I focus on myself. So many people in this world are worried about what the next guy is doing. They’re talking about what this person is doing or that person is doing and I just don’t care about that. I just think we’d all be better if we all just worried about ourselves, and try to be better human beings, better fighters, better at whatever you do.

“All I do is worry about myself and my family and I don’t pay attention to any of that stuff. And here’s the thing: At the end of the day, this is a fight. We’re going to walk into a cage and that’s really all that matters in those minutes you’re in there. So I don’t focus on what someone says or does or what they wear or what they have. I focus on making myself the best person I can be, the best husband I can be, the best father I can be and the best fighter I can be.”

Lawler has had plenty of ups and downs in a career that began in 2001 when he’d just turned 19. He’s won several world titles, most notably the UFC welterweight crown but also several middleweight titles in other organizations. He’s had a slew of highlight-reel KOs and has been in some of the greatest fights in UFC history.

But he’s also been on the downside, as well, and has lost 13 times in 42 pro bouts. He knows adversity, and faces a little of it in this fight. He’s coming off back-to-back losses and is 1-3 in his last four, though his most recent defeat doesn’t feel so much like a loss to him.

He still contends that referee Herb Dean made a mistake stopping his bout with Ben Askren at UFC 235 on March 2 in Las Vegas. Lawler had indicated he was fine, but Dean either didn’t see his thumbs up or disagreed with him and halted the bout.

Not surprisingly, though, he’s already let that go.

“Herb is a good referee and he did what he thought was best in that situation,” Lawler said. “It’s a tough job. I disagree with him, but what I think about the call really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change things one bit. And so I don’t worry about it, because why waste energy getting upset about something you can’t do anything about?

“I just went back and kept working hard and tried to find a way to get better. I just made sure I did all the right things. I’ve got really good coaches around me. I have really good training partners, a good strength and conditioning coach, and I watch my diet pretty much 95 percent of the time. I try to do all the right things. I prepare and put the effort in.”

Talking about the work he puts in every day is the one time he got a bit animated. He calls himself “an old-school kind of a guy,” and he believes there aren’t shortcuts to success.

“There’s no secret to this, and I don’t get why people don’t understand that more easily,” he said. “People are always looking for some secret out there, a spinning kick or this or that. But the truth is, it’s a lot simpler than people want to believe. It comes down to hard work and doing the right things over and over and over again.”

He’s done that, and in a rare moment of braggadocio said, “Wait until you see me on Saturday.” His body, he said, is better than ever as a result of his efforts.

But Lawler knows as well as anyone that all the musculature in the world isn’t going to win a fight.

“This sport has grown so much in terms of popularity and hype and marketing, but it’s still a fight between two guys in the cage,” he said. “And what has made the most difference over all those years is just getting out there and working as hard as you possibly can every day.”

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