Those of you holding out for one of his patented walk-out performances will be peeved by this, but when Tom Lawlor shows up for his bout with Patrick Cote, he’ll be ushered into the Octagon on the sly. No fanfare. No leashes. No impersonating Dan “The Beast” Severn dressed as Apollo Creed from Rocky IV dancing out to the horn-blasts of James Brown’s “Living in America.”
He is the first live-air preliminary bout on Spike, so he’ll just show up in the cage ready to go. But you know, Lawlor says there’s a silver lining to bummers such as these.
“The good thing about it is, in the past, in my previous fights, I think I’ve gone through a five-minute walk-out,” he says. “It’s like fighting, like fighting an extra round. So that by the time the fight starts I’m already in the second round and I’m already gassed, and I’m fighting a guy who’s fresh. So this time with no intro music or anything, my heart rate will be low and I’ll be nice and calm.”
Adaptability is one of “Filthy” Tom Lawlor’s strong suits, and really it’s something he plans to use a little bit on fight night at UFC 121 in Anaheim on October 23. Coming off of a second consecutive loss to Joe Doerksen at UFC 113 in Montreal—in a fight he says he may have taken a little for granted—the 28-year-old middleweight is happy to find himself with his back against the wall against the high-profile striker Cote.
He might have a point, too. Lawlor routed the sportsbook when he choked out C.B. Dollaway in the first round at UFC 100 when the odds were stacked against him.
“I feel pressure, but at the same time—and I haven’t checked the betting line—but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be an underdog,” he says. “I like the role of being the underdog better. If you’re a favorite, and you go out there and bully a guy around and gas out and get beat, that doesn’t look good. I’ve been a favorite exactly once, which was my last fight with Doerksen, and I lost. That’s my worst performance in the UFC so far.”
Having come off a controversial split-decision loss to Aaron Simpson in January, Lawlor was supposed to fight Tim Credeur next, but when he went down to an injury the durable Doerksen stepped in.
“I’ll be quite honest—I trained real hard, but in the past it’s been hard for me to stay away from partying,” Lawlor says. “Like two weeks before my last fight I was out partying at a nightclub, just going crazy. I’ve kind of tried to get away from that a little bit. I didn’t underestimate Doerksen; I just thought I had an answer for everything that he was going to do. One thing I couldn’t go ahead and make up for was the amount of experience he had, and composure.
“And really that’s where I lacked. There’s no way to play catch-up once a fight’s going. I threw everything I had at him, and he’d seen it all before. It’s not like the fact that he was a late replacement took a toll on me, I think it was the fact that he was a late replacement with 60 fights.”
Lawlor says that his latest setback was much harder to digest than the Simpson bout, because there was at least a consensus out there that he’d won that one.
“A lot of people say, still to this day, you were robbed against Simpson,” he says. “And that makes you feel good when people say that. But as far as the Doerksen fight goes, I thought in my preparation that I had corrected my mistakes. I thought I’d figured out what went wrong in the Simpson fight, where things could have gone better, and thought I’d taken care of that. But after the Doerksen fight I was just dumbfounded. It really kind of sent me back to the drawing board, to re-evaluate some things. It was a lot tougher loss for me, but so goes life.”
To help remedy the situation, Lawlor (6-3, 1 NC) is traversing the greater New England area—currently living in Orlando, he is native to Fall River, MA—training at various gyms to get him out of his comfort zone. He’s spending a lot of time at Lauzon MMA in Bridgewater, Massachusetts; he’s at South Shore Sportsfighting in Rockland; at Tim Burrill’s BJJ in Rhode Island; at Mike Boyle’s for strength and conditioning. He’s spending time in New Hampshire.
He’s all over.
“This is something new,” he says. “I think in the past, I’ve stayed pretty much at one location. I’ve branched out and trained at a couple of different places. I trained at Lauzon’s before, with my family in this area. After my last couple of fights I feel I just need a little different change of pace.”
Lawlor, an avid pro wrestling fan who actually tried his hand at pro wrestling back in the day, will still have a few antics up his sleeve for fight week. But there’s a seriousness to him this time through with relevancy at stake—not to mention his roster position.
Heading into his fight with Cote (14-6), who is coming off a loss of his own to Alan Belcher, Lawlor knows a plank when he sees one.
“If I lose a third fight in a row, no matter how exciting it is, I am pretty sure I’ll be out of a job and looking to crawl my way back into Joe Silva’s good graces,” he says.
When asked how he sees things playing out against a guy who a short time ago was fighting for the middleweight belt, Lawlor makes it clear that, win or lose, he’s going out swinging.
“I think it’s going to be better than Bonnar and Griffin,” he says. “To be honest, he’s got a good chin—a great chin. He hasn’t really been rocked that many times in his career. And I’ve got a gigantic head. So even though it’s a big target, it can still absorb a lot of punishment. So I’m really looking forward to standing there and testing my stand-up skills in front of him.”