For Robbie Lawler, his rematch with Nick Diaz over 17 years after their first meeting wasn’t about getting revenge, but more about finding his enthusiasm and excitement to continue competing inside the octagon.
The former UFC welterweight champion will do just that when he faces Bryan Barberena at UFC 276 this Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The bout will take place on the preliminary card that will air on ABC.
In their first meeting, Diaz knocked out Lawler at UFC 47 in April 2004. They squared off again this past September in a five-round featured bout at UFC 266, where “Ruthless” was able to badly hurt Diaz before getting a third-round TKO victory. It was more than just a win for Lawler — a member of the Kill Cliff Fight Team — but a lesson to himself that he can keep going as a competitor.
“It was just another fight for me, but he definitely got me excited to fight again,” Lawler told MMA Fighting. “That camp went really well, I was firing on all cylinders. Everyone at Sanford MMA did a great job getting me ready for the fight, so it was nice to go out there and put on a good performance for the fans to see.
“Obviously he’s a big name and he got me excited. I still lost 17 years ago, so it’s just all about getting better and still competing, trying to get to a high level, and just be excited. I thank him for getting me excited again.”
Heading into his rematch with Diaz, Lawler told MMA Fighting that with a career that has spanned over two decades on his resumé, he was only looking for matchups that excite him. If he had to spend less time with his family, the juice needed to be worth the squeeze.
The win over Diaz has changed his mentality in some ways. Barberena is coming off of a Fight of the Night split decision win over Matt Brown at March’s UFC Columbus event — a bout Lawler admits he didn’t watch. Heading into his 46th pro fight, it was less about the matchup and more about getting the chance to compete again.
“It’s just using my momentum from my last fight to keep training, doing the right things, and just keeping the momentum going,” Lawler said. “Bryan comes to fight and to put on great performances. It’s just work — going out there competing, and having fun.
“Every fight’s different, every training camp is different. My body feels great, I’m excited, and training has gone really well. I just feel good and my training partners have done a great job getting me ready for this fight. It’s just been a carryover of enthusiasm from my last fight.”
A highly motivated Lawler will look to put a win streak together for the first time since before losing the welterweight title to Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 in July 2016. Since then, the 40-year-old is 2-4, which includes a win over Donald Cerrone at UFC 214, as well as a submission loss to Ben Askren at UFC 235 that was mired in controversy due to the stoppage by referee Herb Dean.
While he doesn’t have a prediction, it’s all about going out there and showing the world that he can still compete.
“I’m just going to go out there and showcase my skills, showcase what I’m capable of now,” Lawler explained. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s just putting it all together that night. It’s not about the training camp you put in, or the weight cut, or anything else. It’s about, how good can you be? Can you showcase your skills when it matters?”