UFC and MMA legend “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler is coming off of a UFC 266 TKO victory over Nick Diaz, and is now gearing up for a UFC 276 bout with Bryan Barberena on July 2, 2022. Before mixing it up, Lawler sat down with Bloody Elbow to discuss the origins of his nickname, an openness to superfights and novelty bouts, eating for performance for the past 20+ years, and nostalgia for the days of fight shorts plastered with an assortment of sponsorship patches.
- Your violent fighting style really is “Ruthless,” so where did you get your nickname from?
“Actually, Dana [White] said I needed a nickname so he just kind of like thought of one, and I was like, ‘yeah, whatever.’ I’m here to fight. I don’t really care about nicknames, but yeah he picked ‘Ruthless’ and we just ran with it.”
- Everyone deals with a certain level of stress, or fear, going into a fight. Since, you’ve put in so much time over the years, would you say the nerves are the same as when you first started, or have they changed in any way?
“I mean it’s different. It all comes down to how you’re prepared, what your status is in life, and how you’re feeling. Are you excited, or are you nervous? When I’m at my best, I’m excited. They’re very similar, but excited is a little different than nervous. Excited is I’m going out there ready to showcase my skills and do my thing. I’ve put in the right amount of work. That’s where I’m at, and that’s when I’m at my best. When I’m excited.”
- Over the course of a 20+ year career, you’re developed a reputation for always showing up in shape and ready to bang. How have you remained so disciplined for so long?
“I enjoy working out, I enjoy taking care of my body, and fine-tuning. So that’s what the sport’s all about. It’s about fine-tuning and figuring out ways to make things easier for you. A little bit of extra work here; a little less work there. It’s just fine-tuning for every fight, fine-tuning for your age, fine-tuning your work load so that you can recover; and having the right people around you to help you with those things. Getting massages, doing ice baths or whatever. Having coaches telling you, ‘Hey, rest. Don’t do anything.’ Or, me telling my coaches, ‘Hey, I’m not doing shit today.’ So it’s just finding that balance and making it work.”
- You have been competing for pretty much your entire adult life. Has there ever been a time when you haven’t had to be on your diet?
“Obviously, when I was younger I mean I could just eat whatever I wanted without putting on very much weight. But as I’ve gotten older, it’s alright, how can I finely tune this machine so it doesn’t take so long to recover, and I can perform optimally? So it’s just once again trying to find that balance. Different stages in life, different training camps. Let’s say you’re focusing more on cardio, you’re eating a certain way for that. If you’re focusing more on strength, then you have to eat a little more protein.”
“So it’s just finding that correct balance, and making sure you feel good. What works for me isn’t going to work for everyone else. Every individual is different, and it’s having the discipline, and it’s almost like you’re your own science experiment. And really, only you know how you feel. A coach can push you, and push you, and push you, but they don’t know if you feel like shit.”
- The last time we talked you told me about how you were doing the Kill Cliffs, and how part of your supplement routine was adding in the CBD. Would you say that’s also one of the ways you stay away from the sugar, which can be really detrimental to weight cuts?
“Yeah, but I’m not too much worried about sugar. It’s more calories; just taking the right calories in. Kill Cliff, one thing it helps me with is recovery. It gets me a little bit of vitamins and ginseng. You don’t have the crash because of the green tea caffeine is a little cleaner, burns a little smoother. You don’t have that crash, and they taste great, too. So, you get that little pick me up of that great taste. I try not to get too crazy with my diet so much. I mean I eat healthy, but it’s just kind of like a way of life, and I definitely don’t count my calories. It’s all by feel.”
- So you’re gearing up for UFC 276 on July 2, 2022 to face Bryan Barberena. I remember you telling me how your rematch with Nick Diaz really had you fired up, and now you’re fighting Barberena, who is solid and all — but do you feel like you’ve had to find some extra motivation to get up for this one?
“No, it’s all about being disciplined and using that momentum from my last fight, and trying to keep that going. Sticking to the basics, working on simple things, and just being sharp. My training partners at Sanford MMA have done a great job of helping me, and making sure I’m sharp, and pushing me. I mean if you go in there and you’re not clicking on all cylinders you can get beat up fast. My body feels great, and I’ve been training with some of the best in the world.”
- How many more fights do you have left on your contract?
“Doesn’t matter. It’s one fight at a time, so we’ll see what’s in store. Get through this fight, and focus on the next one, but I’ve got a few more.”
- Everyone says that MMA is a young man’s game, but time and time again we keep seeing veterans rise to the top. How long do you think you can actively continue to fight at this level?
“We’ll see. Just listening to my body and just training hard. As long as I can compete at a high level, and excited to go out there and fight, I’ll continue to do it. It’s just something I love to do, and I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I enjoy it.”
- You have definitely paid your dues, and then some. Can you see yourself ever doing a novelty fight after your UFC career? Like a boxing match or grappling event?
“I don’t really know. Just concentrate on this fight and then we’ll see where the road takes us. That’s what’s fun about life. You never know where it’s going to go and the opportunities that are going to come up.”
- Before you call it a career, would you want a superfight with anyone? Maybe something that isn’t just a regular fight, like a Conor McGregor, or perhaps someone in a different weight class?
“I mean obviously, if a superfight means more money, haha. Let’s do it. I’m clicking on all cylinders, training camp went really well, but I have to get through this fight first of all, and then bigger things are going to happen. I’m always looking for bigger and better things. We’ll see what happens. My management and UFC will figure it out.”
- I think Dana White recently said that Nate Diaz should go ahead and just box Jake Paul, even though he’s still under UFC contract. Would you be open to something along those lines?
“Oh for sure. For sure. I’m not into what anyone’s saying, so all of this is news to me. I don’t really follow the sport as far as what everyone’s saying, so that’s news to me.”
- I have this idea that the UFC should do away with the win bonus, double the show money, and then replace the performance bonuses with finish bonuses — keeping Fight of the Night of course — Do you think that would promote more finishes and prevent guys from playing it safe?
“Maybe a little bit, but I think guys are fighting to their strengths. You don’t want guys who their strength isn’t banging going out there and getting their head chopped off because they’re trying to make this money to pay for something they don’t really need. Stay within your means and fight with the skillset that you have, and good things will happen for you. But like you don’t want guys doing stuff that they shouldn’t be doing just to make a little extra money, and put on as how for the fans. Or maybe you do, but me personally, I’m like fight your game and get a W.”
- I definitely respect that, but it would be nice if everyone had the same sort of style as Robbie Lawler. I will say that.
“But my style fits my skillset. That’s the thing. If a guy’s not a freaking power puncher, you want him standing up? If he’s a wrestler and a Jiu-Jitsu guy you want him standing up and banging with someone like me, you know? Stick to what you do best and try to get those W’s. That’s what this sport’s all about. Finding your niche and taking advantage of it.”
- That reminds me of one of your protégés, Logan Storley, who stuck to his guns and just captured Bellator’s interim welterweight title. He did what you just said by not doing anything other than playing his game and getting the win — and it paid off for him.
“I fought for 22-years full-time, and before that I was doing martial arts. And look at MVP. How long has he been doing martial arts? He’s a standup guy, too. Makes sense for Logan to grab him, throw him down, and make it boring and not exciting. It’s all about winning, and in the end, like that’s where longevity is. Staying within your means and doing what you need to do to get the job done.”
- Are you really enjoying coaching, and do you pretty much see yourself doing it forever?
“At some point in time people showed me skills, and different aspects, and helped me out. I think it’s my job to give back and make life a little bit easier for these fighters. I’m a decent assistant coach. Go in there, ‘Hey maybe in this position just do this.’ Those type of things. It’s fun.”
- Who are some of your sponsors that you’d like to give a shout out to?
“Kill Cliff, Get Biofuel, Black Rifle Coffee. Those are my big sponsors taking care of us. Taking care of me, and I’m definitely blessed to still have sponsors and people who want to be a part of my career.”
- Do you ever miss the days of the fight shorts covered in the sponsorship logos, or do you prefer the uniforms?
“Oh come on now. I like how everyone had their own little swag going. Some guys patches are falling off, some guys have big sponsors. You’d be looking at the guys shorts like, ‘what’s he have.’ That’s fun. That was fun to me. It was like NASCAR. Everyone was different. Yeah, I think that was a lot better than what they have now.”
- Do you think we’ll ever get back to that, or are uniforms here to stay?
“It doesn’t look that way since they have these deals with Venum, and looks like they might have a deal with Under Armor shoes through The Rock, or something. So, it doesn’t look that way, but Bellator still does it. These other organizations still do it. I would say, more or less, what that hurts is the smaller fighter, or the up-and-coming fighter because they were getting free stuff. Like chiropractic work, maybe massages. Like those types of things. They may not be getting those types of things, but give and take, right? That’s what this sport is. Figure out a way to adapt and get the job done is what it comes down to. Improvise.”
You can follow Eddie on twitter — @TheEddieMercado and you can find us @BloodyElbow. Check out Robbie Lawler’s official twitter while you’re there — @Ruthless_RL. For more on ‘Ruthless’, be sure to check out his insta: ruthless_rl.
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