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Robbie Lawler on his career resurgence: 'I expected this the whole time'

Esther Lin

"Ruthless" Robbie Lawler has long been known as one of MMA's most straightforward people, whether that's his fighting style inside the Octagon or with his speaking style outside.

So the 32-year-old American Top Team Fighter isn't afraid to basically say "I told you so" about the career resurgence which has him on the brink of a title.

As Lawler gets ready for his welterweight title rematch with Johny Hendricks on Saturday in the main event of UFC 181 he admits he takes pride in knowing that his UFC success over the past two years came in the face of those who thought he was washed up.

"I expected this the whole time," Lawler said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "Which is funny, because a lot of people wrote me off a long time ago. I always thought I could be the best and that's what I've been doing all these years. This didn't happen overnight. This is dedication, this is a lot of hard work and time and that's what you're seeing now."

After spending years being labeled as the can't-miss-kid-who-did - in spite of his successes in promotions like Elite XC and Strikeforce - Lawler returned to the UFC after a nine-year absence early last year, and, well, most of you know the story by now. Lawler returned at UFC 157 with a first-round knockout of Josh Koscheck, and springboarded from there to a 5-1 record, with three finishes.

"I don't care what anyone said," Lawler said. "I just think it's funny looking back at it now. I didn't care what people thought of me, that I was getting better, pushing myself to get better. Those are the things I concentrate on, I don't concentrate on what everyone else was saying."

That one loss, of course, was the razor-thin loss to Hendricks at UFC 171 in the fight to fill the vacant welterweight title, a fight which is still considered by many the frontrunner for 2014's Fight of the Year.

Lawler stayed busy after the loss, defeating Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown, while Hendricks has been sidelined with a biceps injury. Lawler believes staying active in the interim will play to his strengths.

"I don't really worry too much about how much he's fought and how much I've fought," Lawler said. "I just feel like that's to my advantage. I wasn't sure how it was going to happen. The UFC didn't tell me I was going to get a rematch, so I just went right back to work as soon as possible and my next fight I took as soon as possible, just working hard and preparing myself to get the belt."

Likewise, he hasn't spent too much time looking back on his defeat. Other than a couple viewings of the fight, he's left that sort of stuff in the hands of his coaches.

"I watched it right after I fought him, then I watched it about a month and a half ago," Lawler said. "I might watch it one more time before [Saturday]. My coaches did a good job of watching the tape, breaking it down, and showing me bits and pieces before sparring and they think I need to be better in. When you fine tune those spots I'm stronger."

Lawler's heavy activity over the past two years is especially noteworthy because so many of the biggest names in the sport have been sidelined with injuries. Lawler said his health hasn't been the result of anything special, other than perhaps falling into better tune with his body's needs as his career matures.

"I was hurt a lot early in my career," Lawler said. "My coaches did a really good job of keeping my healthy. It's just a learning process. You learn how to take care of your body. You learn to practice so that you're healthy to fight, and I think that it's also a little luck."

And with that in mind, no offense to fans hoping that Hendricks-Lawler 2 will equal or surpass the original, but Lawler hopes to get out of Las Vegas unscathed.

"I want it to be one-sided," Lawler said. "I don't want to take any bumps or bruises, I want to go out and dictate all aspects and go out the way I came in. I'm looking to dominate and dictate."

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