Oklahoma State had their day in the sun for a long time, but the NCAA to UFC pipeline seems to have relocated to State College, PA.
It’s impossible for any school to compare themselves to the success of Daniel Cormier, Johny Hendricks, Randy Couture and many more Oklahoma State grads, but with the UFC trajectories of RBY (Roman Bravo-Young), Bo Nickal, Jimmy Lawson and many more, it’s hard to see a future for the Nittany Lions that doesn’t rival the Cowboys.
Lawson explains that the reason for all the recent success comes from a man who never accomplished anything in the MMA space but sure could have if he wanted to.
“Cael [Sanderson] is one of the most interesting human beings I’ve had the pleasure of being around,” Lawson said. “It’s definitely something being in the presence of, and learning from, somebody who has never felt defeat and has accomplished all he’s ever wanted to do at every single level he’s been at. It’s a type of an infectious energy I can’t really explain. It comes from a school of thought that anything you’re willing to work your butt off for and strive for, you can accomplish. He’s living proof of that, and that mentality definitely carries to the program.”
Sanderson is equal parts calming, equal parts intensity, the nearly impossible concoction of, “Yes, you can” and “I better see you do your best.” He’s never confused when a person doesn’t succeed, but with his run in the sport of wrestling it’d be easy to see why he would be.
With the legacy he’s left and the program he runs now, not succeeding isn’t the end of the world, but giving up on yourself might be. It’s this impossible to define quality about him that has caused his teams to succeed in and out of the sport for so many years.
“Things aren’t really as hard in our eyes because we’ve got somebody like Cael,” Lawson said. “Before then, It was hard for me to see all the things I wanted to accomplish out in front of me, but with a guy like that and everything he’s accomplished and learning his mindset and slowly being molded into that school of thought, it’s hard not to push yourself to be the best.”
Lawson’s guidance from Sanderson, mixed with his training partners, led him to a sixth-place finish, and although an injury may have stolen some momentum from him, the talent he pushed himself to the limit day in and day out with set him up for success further down the road than just “the end of the season.”
“My wrestling partners there were Jake Varner, Les Sigman, Cael Sanderson, Jonathan Gingrich who, at the time when he wrestled, was in the Top Ten in the nation,” Lawson said. “Obviously, I also had all the legends that everybody knows about, like Ed Ruth and David Taylor and those guys. The room was great. It was great to be around that many high-level athletes.”
Nittany Lion roots run deep. Lawson is still as in touch with his Penn State side as he ever was. With the National Championships just around the corner, there’s plenty to look forward to after his LFA 125 bout.
“I’m most excited to see Greg Kerkvliet,” Lawson said. “I think he’s extremely talented and I think he could have a great match with Gable Steveson in the finals and he could put it all together. They went back and forth in battles in high school. I think it’s going to be dope to see those two go back and forth again in the finals and not again in some high school tournament.”
Lawson’s next stop is LFA 125; how long after will the next Nittany Lion steal the show in the LFA cage? It might not be long!
Catch the return of Jimmy Lawson at LFA 125 LIVE Friday, February 25, ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!