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New champ Robbie Lawler taking a break after busy 2014, but 'always ready to go'

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Robbie Lawler fought four times in 2014 against some of the biggest hitters in the welterweight division. He fell to Johny Hendricks in a March title bout, beat Jake Ellenberger in May, defeated Matt Brown in July and then came back in December to take Hendricks' title.

There was no one busier last year than Lawler, the UFC's new welterweight champion. And no one deserves a break more than him. The current plan is for Lawler to take a few months off from fighting. However, if you know anything about him, it's that if he's needed for a fight he won't turn it down.

"Obviously, I'm always ready to go," Lawler told MMAFighting.com. "I'm always about two, three weeks out from being able to fight. But yeah, it was a busy year and I just wanted a break. That's it."

Part of this time off from the Octagon has included other obligations. Lawler has been doing promotional things for the UFC, he was in Las Vegas last weekend to accept his Fighters Only MMA Awards Fighter of the Year trophy and Saturday and Sunday he'll be in Los Angeles at TheFitExpo. Lawler will be explaining MMA techniques to fans and also signing autographs both days as part of a program called the Paradise Warrior Retreat.

Appearances like this weren't always in Lawler's playbook. All "Ruthless" really wants to do is fight, which has endeared him to fans since he had his first run in the UFC starting at age 19 in 2002. Now 32 and back with the organization since 2013, Lawler has made it a point to get better at the side stuff.

"I just think I was ready to embrace everything about the sport," he said. "Obviously, the UFC is the biggest organization in the world, so it was like when I came there, there were expectations and things you needed to do to become a high-level fighter. There are things that are asked of you by the UFC that you need to do. I was ready to do those things when I came back to the UFC."

Lawler (25-10, 1 NC) still prefers to just train and fight. That attitude has helped make him a champion. It wasn't even completely his own choice to take these few months off from fighting.

"My coach [Kami Barzini] actually told me to take some time off," Lawler said. "He said, 'You just had a long year. Back-to-back-to-back fights. Just staying busy. Mentally and physically, you need to rest.' I mean, I'm not resting. I'm just not training for a fight."

Lawler has no target date set on his return. But it's likely to be sometime in the summer or later. The welterweight contender picture is pretty foggy right now anyway.

Hendricks meets Brown at UFC 185 on March 14 in Dallas and then Rory MacDonald fights Hector Lombard at UFC 186 on April 25. The winner of one of those fights will likely take on Lawler next. The champion doesn't have a preference, but if Lombard comes out of that quartet as the No. 1 contender it will complicate things. Lawler and Lombard are training partners at American Top Team.

"Here's the thing: We'll cross that path when we need to," Lawler said. "There's no sense in talking about something that might not happen. We'll talk to all the trainers if we need to and just take care of it, if it comes up. But right now, that's not an issue. I don't concentrate on those things."

Lawler really only focuses on himself. And now, outside of the other obligations, he's resting his body and tweaking those little details that he didn't have time to address during a loaded 2014. That could make for an even more dangerous fighter the next time we see him.

"My body is going to be fresher," Lawler said. "I'm going to be mentally fresher. It was a grind last year. It was something I haven't done for a long time. It was busy. It was a lot of training. But I think I'm gonna be fresher. Now I have time to work on stuff, I'm not just trying to get in shape. I can work on my strength, I can work on my speed, I can work on my technique. It's not all just getting ready for fighting an opponent. It's really just concentrating on myself."