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Ronnie Lawrence: Settled In And Ready To Show Out

UFC Batamweight Ronnie Lawrence Is Build On His Debut Victory At UFC Fight Night: Hall vs Strickland

Ronnie Lawrence didn’t feel a particular way about UFC President Dana White referring to him as “special” following his contract-earning victory last summer on the Contender Series, at least not until everyone kept asking him about it.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” began Lawrence, who squares off with Trevin Jones in an intriguing bantamweight clash on this weekend’s prelims. “I was sitting there and I was thinking, ‘I think I got the contract, but I didn’t get the finish.’ I had a feeling deep in my gut that I was going to get the contract, and when he said ‘special,’ I was just like, ‘Is this happening right now?’

“I was doing my press interviews and they kept bringing that up, like, ‘Dana says you’re special; does that add any extra pressure?’ and I was like, ‘It didn’t before! I guess maybe now it does.’”

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Getting the boss’ endorsement is a sure-fire way to garner increased attention and garner added scrutiny, especially when you’re just getting started, but given the way he performed in his debut, it’s clear that Lawrence wasn’t bothered by any of it.

Paired off with tough veteran Vince Cachero at the end of February, the UFC newcomer orchestrated a masterful performance, showing the full complement of his skills and a gas tank that will make him a menace for anyone looking to halt his climb up the bantamweight ranks.

Ronnie Lawrence trains at Sanford MMA in Deerfield Beach, FL (Photo by Gavin Porter/ Zuffa LLC)
Ronnie Lawrence trains at Sanford MMA in Deerfield Beach, FL (Photo by Gavin Porter/ Zuffa LLC)

Like the Energizer Bunny on four cans of Red Bull, he worked and feinted, putting it on Cachero for the opening two rounds before getting him out of there midway through the third, pushing his winning streak to four in the process.

“I’m still not happy with the striking,” said Lawrence, ever his own harshest critic. “Maybe I made the moment bigger than it was, maybe the guy I was fighting did a few things — I’m not saying the striking was horrible, just there were a few spots in between where I kind of froze for a split second; little brief moments where I was taking pictures after I punched.

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“I know better,” he added, punctuating his annoyance. “I flowed for the most part, but I wasn’t completely there. I guess I was holding back, maybe.”

One thing he knows for sure wasn’t the cause of his “not as crisp as he’d hoped” effort earlier this year was pressure, as he felt more comfortable heading into the Octagon for his promotional debut than he did making the same walk inside the UFC APEX six months earlier.

Preview Every Fight On UFC Fight Night: Hall vs Strickland

“There was less pressure for my debut than there was for my Contender Series fight,” offered Lawrence, who carries a 7-1 record into his intriguing clash with Jones on Saturday night. “With the Contender Series, it’s an unknown thing — even if I have a good fight, I might not get signed; it’s just a tryout.

“I’m still not happy with the striking,” said Lawrence, ever his own harshest critic. “Maybe I made the moment bigger than it was, maybe the guy I was fighting did a few things — I’m not saying the striking was horrible, just there were a few spots in between where I kind of froze for a split second; little brief moments where I was taking pictures after I punched.

“I know better,” he added, punctuating his annoyance. “I flowed for the most part, but I wasn’t completely there. I guess I was holding back, maybe.”

One thing he knows for sure wasn’t the cause of his “not as crisp as he’d hoped” effort earlier this year was pressure, as he felt more comfortable heading into the Octagon for his promotional debut than he did making the same walk inside the UFC APEX six months earlier.

MORE UFC FIGHT NIGHT: Watch Hall's Top Finishes | The Rise Of Sean Strickland

“There was less pressure for my debut than there was for my Contender Series fight,” offered Lawrence, who carries a 7-1 record into his intriguing clash with Jones on Saturday night. “With the Contender Series, it’s an unknown thing — even if I have a good fight, I might not get signed; it’s just a tryout.

“The UFC fight was time to go out and not necessarily be boring, but it’s just about winning now.”

That’s not to say he didn’t appreciate the magnitude of the moment or get some serious “Is this really happening?” vibes once his feet hit the canvas and he waited to be introduced for the first time.

“I felt great, didn’t have very many nerves — I was kind of just telling myself, ‘You’re never going to experience this again; this is your first fight week, your first time, so try to enjoy it.’ I’m always thinking about what’s next, but sometimes you’ve gotta stop and smell the roses.

Ronnie Lawrence trains at Sanford MMA in Deerfield Beach, FL (Photo by Gavin Porter/Zuffa LLC)
Ronnie Lawrence trains at Sanford MMA in Deerfield Beach, FL (Photo by Gavin Porter/Zuffa LLC)

“I was just trying to soak it in, take it for what it was, and have a good time,” he continued, “But when I stepped into the cage, that’s when the nerves hit.”

He chuckles, recalling the inexplicable sensation.

“I can’t really explain (the feeling) — it’s like, ‘I know I should be here, but I can’t really believe that I’m here.’”

While it’s not quite the full-blown Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is the clinical opposite of imposter syndrome, it’s a familiar sentiment you hear from athletes that spent longer than expected toiling in the regional ranks, watching others get signed as their opponents frequently pulled out and opportunities went by the boards.

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They know the work they’ve put in, the skills they possess, and that they’re capable of competing at the highest levels but knowing it and getting the chance to show and prove are two different things.

For a little while, Lawrence wasn’t sure his chance would come around.

“I felt like I should have been here years ago, but so many guys wouldn’t take fights with me, or opponents would back out the week before a fight,” he explained, echoing sentiments shared by legions of fighters over the years. “I didn’t necessarily have enough fights to claim I should be in the UFC years ago, but I had the skill level and the mindset.

“It almost felt like it was never going to happen at one point when I was getting up and going to work every day, being like, ‘I’m getting closer to 30 every day’ and seeing these guys getting signed that I felt like I could beat.”

Sanford MMA Wants To Raise The Level Of The Sport | UFC News Gym Visit
Sanford MMA Wants To Raise The Level Of The Sport | UFC News Gym Visit
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Sanford MMA cultivates an atmosphere where their athletes help and push each other every day in their gym in Deerfield Beach, Florida.


Now that he’s not only signed, but heading into his sophomore appearance inside the Octagon, the Sanford MMA representative is ready to justify his place on the roster, recognizing that what he did in the past doesn’t really matter all that much anymore.

“Getting into the UFC is almost like going pro all over again because you’ve got to rebuild your respect, your name, put out new performances; it’s its own thing and I’m learning and experiencing that,” he said. “I might have been a killer in every other organization, but you get to the UFC and it’s different.

“I’ve seen guys that didn’t perform to how they could have just because of the moment.”

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His effort against Cachero in February showed he’s not going to be one of those guys that falters now that he’s competing under the brightest lights, and with another five months of training with the all-star cast of coaches and training partners he works with in Deerfield Beach under his belt, Lawrence is confident he’ll replicate that performance this weekend against Jones.

“I feel like you‘re going to see a lot of what you saw last time, maybe a little more settled in. I’m always adding stuff to my game, even if it’s just the fine details, so I feel you’re going to see great footwork, great feints, and me pretty much breaking him down from his calves to his head.

“I’m going to find where in the fight he is the least likely to flourish,” he added. “And I’m going to keep feeling him out with waves of my offense.”