The UFC was planning to match welterweight contenders Tyron Woodley and Hector Lombard as the headliner for a December show in Australia, but had to change plans.
Woodley declined to face his teammate, even after Lombard said he wanted to fight his fellow American Top Team member "so bad." The bout will not materialize, but that doesn’t mean that ATT won’t have two fighters clashing inside the Octagon.
With a handful of welterweights competing inside the same promotion, the team is warming up the idea of an ATT vs. ATT fight in the UFC, and the ATT head coach is making an example of himself.
"What better example can I give than competing against a former teammate? I’m facing Ze Mario Sperry at ADCC 2015. I don’t have a better example than that," Ricardo Liborio told MMAFighting.com.
"We have Robbie Lawler, Tyron Woodley, Hector Lombard, Thiago Alves, Ben Saunders, Colby Covington. We have a lot of great talents at 170. What can we tell them? There’s only one belt and they understand it."
Three of the top six UFC welterweights train at American Top Team, and Liborio knows that their paths will eventually cross one day.
"If they have to fight, they have to fight. We can do different camps for both. We wouldn’t like to see it happening, but they eventually will have to fight. At the end of the day, it’s an individual sport," he said.
"We've talk about this for a long time. They understand it, but I won’t be in anyone’s corner. Tyron and Hector, I train them both. Don’t ask me for advice, anything. I’m out. Whoever wins, ATT wins.
"Tyron fighting Hector would be easier because Tyron sometimes trains in his own gym, so we could find a way to support them both," he added. "But I would never get involved in this. I would be watching it at home."
Robbie Lawler will challenge UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks a UFC 181 on Dec. 6, so ATT could have two of their 170-pounders facing each other for the UFC belt in the future.
"Two American Top Team fighters fighting for a title? It means we’re doing something right here," Liborio said. "It’s an individual sport and everybody wants the same thing."
Lawler fought Hendricks to a close decision at UFC 171, but earned another shot at the gold after back-to-back wins over Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown. This time, Liborio is confident that his protégé will walk with the title.
"Robbie has all the tools to win," he said. "I believe Hendricks will change his strategy this time, will try some takedowns to work on top. We’re changing a few things in Robbie’s wrestling and jiu-jitsu training to get him ready.
"It’s Robbie’s time," he continued. "I will always believe in my fighters, but he’s really prepared to get this done. There are a lot of guys from his Miletich days who became champions, and this is his time. He fit pretty well in the American Top Team and that helped him a lot."