They were running buddies, a tag team, partners in crime. Wherever Matt Hughes went when he was king of the welterweight hill, Robbie Lawler tagged along. To this day, Hughes calls his campmate from the heyday of Miletich Fighting Systems his "brother."
These days Hughes, is a UFC Hall of Famer and has retired to a company front-office job. But Lawler, who meets Bobby Voelker at UFC on FOX 8 in Seattle on July 27, has transformed himself from the 'can't-miss prospect who did' into a veteran experiencing a career resurgence.
In his return to both welterweight and the UFC, Lawler knocked out Josh Koscheck in the first round of their UFC 157 fight. It was Lawler's first UFC victory in nine years.
At last week's UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas, Hughes told MMAFighting.com that his "little brother" has finally grown up.
"He never was an '85 pounder," Hughes said. "He just didn't want to cut the 7 1/2 pounds to make welterweight. And the fact is, he's getting mature now. He's seeing the bigger picture. He knows that doing the PR and stuff is not a big deal, and he's getting it done."
Hughes also pointed out that Lawler was thrust into the spotlight at an early age. He began his fighting career at 19 and had his first UFC match, a win over Aaron Riley at UFC 37, at 20, whereupon he was immediately declared the next big thing. That's a lot for someone just out of high school to handle.
"He was a young kid," Hughes said. "He was in his teens for his first fight in the UFC, or his first fight for sure. It was good for him to mature an to figure out that fighting is a pretty good gig, you just have to figure out the paperwork aspect of it."
Meanwhile, one small but tangible result of Hughes' office gig was subtle, but you may have noticed it at the UFC 162 post-fight press conference: Hughes made a common-sense point that got the UFC's new fighter dress code relaxed a bit.
Informed by an unnamed co-worker that fighters were expected to go to press conferences in a suit jacket, Hughes asked a simple question. "I ask, ‘well, what's Dana [White] wearing? You'll never have Dana out of a T-shirt. You know you're going to have a hard time getting these guys in a coat if he's sitting there wearing a T-shirt.' So they go, ‘Yeah, you might be right.' Then they change [the dress code] from a suit jacket to just nice clothes and covered feet, no flip flops."
With that, on to the latest edition of Fightweets. I could have filled this entire column with nothing but Anderson Silva-Chris Weidman talk, but I've already been chatting about it for a week, so a couple questions on last weekend's events and then on to the rest.
@Bestcloseralive: Anderson just said he wants the rematch. Do u think at UFC 168? And have Rousey vs Tate as co-main event.
Depends. My initial reaction when I heard that Silva wants his rematch sooner rather than later is that Weidman-Silva 2 and Rousey-Tate 2 should be kept separate. Rousey, on her own, is already a significant pay-per-view draw positioned in that solid tier a step below the megastars like Silva and Georges St-Pierre. She draws media attention from places other fighters don't, and she's going to be bigger than ever after the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. So my first instinct was, since there are only so many reliable PPV draws to go around, why put them on the same card when you can get two big buy rates if you keep ‘em separated?
Then I heard UFC president Dana White talk about possibly holding the rematch at Cowboys Stadium. Granted, I know we've all heard this one before. But, the post-fight buzz to Silva vs. Weidman was the loudest and most sustained since UFC 100, the biggest-money event in UFC history. UFC said the first Silva-Weidman fight was trending toward 800,000 buys going into the event. That was the level of interest before Weidman knocked Silva out. White also said part of the reason why Silva-Chael Sonnen 2, the UFC's biggest event of 2012, took off was because people were intrigued with the idea Silva looked vulnerable.
Now, add in what transpired at UFC 162, and add in Silva looking to avenge his first loss? Weidman-Silva 2 on its own will be the biggest MMA event since UFC 100. The question is, how big does White want to blow up this event? Would adding Rousey-Tate as a double bill with Weidman-Silva spike enough of a one-time buy rate to make up for having Rousey-Tate on its own? That's going to determine whether they the two fights are paired together or stay on separate cards.
@RyanBafo: How bad does it look that the mainstream media is asking if the fight was fixed?
It reflects poorly on the people making the accusations. Actually, in a weird way, when I see people in the mainstream take such an accusation seriously, I actually find it a helpful reminder. No matter how much traction the sport gained, no matter that we're now 20 years into MMA as a sport and year seven or eight of the "fad," there are still people in high media positions who not only don't like MMA (which is their right), but will spout willfully ignorant opinions without taking time to do research. Sometimes, it's simply your traditional boxing writers who are put off by the mere notion of even have to talk about MMA (I won't dignify that embarrassing SI.com video from a few days ago by linking it). Sometimes it's from those like Mike Wilbon, who did his best to make sure the NBA officiating scandals went away in a hurry, but continues to ridicule MMA. There's nothing like a wingnut conspiracy theory to separate the wheat from the chaff.
@Omaresco02: If Weidman wins a rematch and Sonnen gets on a streak, is there another title shot in near future?
Oh, Chael. Always scheming. I don't think White is going to be in a rush to let Sonnen jump any more lines. Sonnen has "Shogun" Rua in his path. So let's see him simply win a fight, period, before we book his next title shot.
@bestcloserlive: Brian Stann is a great ambassador for the sport. What do u think was his greatest accomplishment?
This was one of several Stann-related questions which came in Thursday after he announced his retirement on a special edition of The MMA Hour. This might sound a little corny, but I mean it: Brian Stann's greatest accomplishment is that he graced this crazy sport with his presence and lent it an air of class and dignity.
As for his career in the cage, Stann got everything he could out of his talents, and that's really all you can ask. In his WEC days, he performed admirably as a neophyte fighter under the intense glare of his Silver Star-related publicity. When he hit a wall in his career progress, he went to Jackson's, reinvented himself to middleweight, and moved up to main events and co-main event spots. When he came up just a bit short against elite names, he had the good sense to walk away with his faculties intact. And hey, he left us with one of the great moments in recent MMA history in his bout with Wanderlei Silva. It took two to create that tango and there was no shame in losing what was both MMAFighting.com and Yahoo! Sports' fight of the half-year.
Stann's MMA career is simply one chapter in what's turned into a remarkable American life. His status as a war hero and a leader of young men and women dwarfs anything he did in the cage. You get the feeling that 20 years from now, when he's sworn in as Sen. Brian Stann of Georgia, MMA will be simply be an interesting sidebar to his story.
Where's Joe Silva?
@ArtoH: this is sort of random: You know why Joe Silva never gives interviews? I can see why he's not on social media. but interviews?
Silva's forbidden by his bosses to talk to the media on the record. But I understand why.
You don't usually hear from the matchmakers in combat sports business for a reason. In the UFC's case, Joe Silva holds the keys to hundreds of people's futures. Anyone who has spent a hour looking at MMA stuff on Twitter can tell you how quickly every public word uttered by a UFC official gets pulled out of context by the very lowest subset of the MMA media: the would-be writers who can't get anyone to pay them for their work, so they become Twitter trolls while deluding themselves into believing they're some sort of warriors against the big machine. Can you imagine the feeding frenzy that would break out if Silva commented in public about why certain fighters got certain breaks and others didn't, or why one fighter's on the main card and the other is on Facebook?
In some ways it's a shame Silva doesn't speak in public. He'll chat informally with reporters before the fights and it's some of the most insightful info I've ever gotten. But I can accept the reasons why he's officially muzzled.
Thompson vs. Pettis?
(Note: Obviously, this one was written before news of Henderson vs. Pettis broke. Leaving it up since Pettis getting the title shot sort of proves the point I was making). @EricSmith_SP: your thoughts on a Josh Thompson vs. Anthony Pettis fight? I think it'd be a fun one.
I'm of two minds on this one. I agree, on paper, this could be an awesome fight. But, that said, there's both a featherweight title fight and a lightweight title fight coming up, so I wouldn't blame Pettis if he waited to see how those two fights played out before committing. Especially since White specifically mentioned Pettis at the UFC 162 post-fight press conference when asked if Cub Swanson or Frankie Edgar would get a featherweight title shot. If your boss, who has a history of flaking on these things, has you on his mind for a title shot, better strike while the iron is hot.
Tito Ortiz's kinda maybe comeback
@BruceWolcott: Talk about Tito returning
Good God, I hope he doesn't.
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