While champions fall, Lawler tries to keep belt vs Condit
Greg Beacham (Associated Press) - December 31, 2015 - 9:21pm

The UFC's list of champions underwent a profound upheaval in 2015. Seven of the 10 people who held title belts on New Year's Day are no longer wearing them as 2016 rolls around.

Robbie Lawler is among the three surviving champs, but not without a cost. He persevered through several years of professional turbulence and brutal bouts to win the welterweight title in December 2014, and he had to survive a horrifying fight with Rory MacDonald to keep it in July.

Although he realizes the daunting nature of the challenge presented by veteran Carlos Condit in his second title defense at UFC 195 on Saturday night (Sunday Manila time), Lawler (26-10) isn't ready to join the UFC's other fallen champions. He worked too hard for too long to get on top, and his fire to stay there still burns.

"I don't worry about what I'm not getting," Lawler said. "I'm worried about what I'm going to get. Everyone else is doing great things, but so am I, and this sport is going to continue to grow. There's going to be different stars out there, and I'll get my chance to shine."

Lawler will face Condit (30-8), the 170-pound division's former interim champion, in a pay-per-view main event with no strong favorite. Heavyweights Andrei Arlovski and Stipe Miocic also meet in the UFC's traditional New Year show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Lawler first fought in the UFC shortly after turning 20 years old, but he didn't win a UFC title until he was 32. The Iowa product believes his deliberate rise has led to peace and perspective.

"I don't care about being overshadowed," Lawler said. "I like creeping up on people, being the quiet guy just coming to fight, coming to go to war, coming to battle. And I've never been in this game to be in the spotlight. I'm in this game because I love it. I love fighting. I love competing. I love pushing myself."

Although a thumb injury in training forced a delay in this matchup, Lawler has recovered physically from his preposterously nasty bout with MacDonald at UFC 189. It ended with a fifth-round stoppage when a bloodied MacDonald could no longer stand up due to injuries including a broken nose and a broken foot, leaving Lawler as the winner despite a long vertical cut that split his upper lip grotesquely.

Fans loved it. UFC President Dana White hailed it as maybe the greatest welterweight fight ever. Lawler isn't sentimental about the whole experience.

"You don't want to have to showcase your warrior spirit or how much heart you have in a fight," Lawler said. "You want to go out there and you want to be sharp and you want to execute your game plan and go out there and get it done fast. So push comes to shove, every fighter wants to get it done as soon as possible and take the least amount of damage as possible."

Yet both Lawler and Condit have histories and hungers that strongly suggest they might end up abandoning their game plans and trading haymakers at some point in their bout.

"You lock me in a cage with a fighter like Robbie, and I'm going to have to rise to the occasion or it's not going to go well for me," Condit said. "So he's not backing down. Neither am I. I feel like it's going to be a great fight."

Condit has done just about everything except win the undisputed welterweight title belt. Georges St. Pierre described Condit as his toughest competitor following their title bout in November 2012.

UFC 195 was expected to be headlined by Ronda Rousey's title defense against Holly Holm, while Lawler and Condit were scheduled to meet at UFC 193 in Australia in November. After Lawler's injury forced the swap, Rousey then took one of the most shocking upsets in recent sports history at Holm's hands in Melbourne.

Holm and Condit are both Albuquerque natives, and both train under MMA mastermind Greg Jackson. Lawler has respect for Jackson's fighters and their upset capabilities, but nothing intimidates him anymore.

"Carlos is a kickboxer, and he's got a little bit of a different style than most, but he's high up there and I have to definitely be focused," Lawler said. "He brings everything to the table when it comes to strikes. He does spinning kicks. He does spinning back-fist. He does elbows. He does knees — jump knees. He does it all, so I have to be sharp."

Notes: The UFC 195 will now be carried locally over Hyper Channel 53 on Cignal live this Sunday. It will have an encore telecast on TV5 at 10 p.m. on the same day. 

AFTER LAWLER CARLOS CONDIT CONDIT GEORGES ST. PIERRE GRAND GARDEN ARENA GREG JACKSON LAWLER LAWLER AND CONDIT NEW YEAR QUOT UFC
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