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Ronnie Lawrence prepares to fight Saidyokub Kakhramonov of Uzbekistan in their bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on July 09, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Ronnie Lawrence Ready To See What He's Made Of

Finally Healthy, “The Heat” Seeks To Make Bantamweight Run Starting This Saturday

The last time Ronnie Lawrence stepped into the Octagon feeling healthy — or at least as healthy as a professional mixed martial artist can feel heading into a fight — was ahead of his UFC debut against Vince Cachero on February 27, 2021.

Ahead of each of his last two appearances — a unanimous decision win over Mana Martinez at UFC 271 and a unanimous decision loss to Saidyokub Kakhramonov last July — the promising Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) graduate has been making the walk after dealing with a recurring series of maladies that he couldn’t quite figure out.

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“The last two or three years, I couldn’t figure it out, but I kept getting what I thought were ingrown hairs in my beard,” Lawrence said when we spoke a couple weeks ahead of his fight this weekend with Dan Argueta. “It ended up not being ingrown hairs — it’s some type of cystic acne from your hormones being f***ed up, so whenever I go out in the sun too long or I overtrain and don’t get the proper rest and recovery, it seems like the acne comes out on my jaw line.”

For Lawrence, the pattern was often the same: things would be progressing well enough through camp until three or four weeks out, when the bumps would start to appear. As he continued towards his fight, the potential for additional flare-ups grew.

Ronnie Lawrence punches Vince Cachero in a bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 27, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Ronnie Lawrence punches Vince Cachero in a bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 27, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

And despite stepping into the cage under the weather in the past and succeeding, the man known as “The Heat” thought he would be able to manage to do the same with Kakhramonov and still be successful.

He thought wrong.

“My ego wouldn’t let me pull out,” said Lawrence. “Obviously, I wanted to make the money, I believed in myself, and didn’t want to be known for pulling out of fights.

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“After about one or two wrestling exchanges, I realized it was an absolutely terrible idea but, at that point, you’re fighting and you can’t say, ‘Hey — pause! Can we do this next week?’

“I remember just thinking, ‘This is the strongest man in the world,’” he added. “I felt so weak. It was unfortunate, but I still took what I could from it and tried to improve on the positions that I got put in because I don’t normally get put in those positions. I tried to do my best and learn from the loss even though I felt like half my normal self.”

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If there has been a positive in this otherwise maddening situation, it’s that Lawrence has been forced to recalibrate his training.

An admitted over-trainer who typically puts in three training sessions a day outside of camp and was trying to keep that same schedule on the way to fight night, struggling to stay healthy and focusing in on ensuring that he makes it to the cage in the best state possible has led him to switch things up, dropping down to one, maybe two, hard pushes per day and an increased focus on drilling and technique as opposed to “going crazy,” as he put it.

“My whole career, I’ve been known for borderline over-training,” began Lawrence, who earned rave reviews from the UFC President following his victory on the annual talent search series carrying his name. “Cardio has always been one of my strong suits. Cardio was a tool I utilized — I’d try to come out fast, stay fast, and they would be like, ‘Obviously he’s gonna slow down,’ and then I would end up speeding up.

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“I’ve tried to keep that same mentality while training less; a little more drilling instead of trying to go full-speed crazy all the time. Normally, four weeks out, I feel like absolute dog s**t because I’m overdoing it to the max, and then three weeks out, I peak too early and look like an absolute machine, and then I get sick around that time; at least that’s what happened the last couple fights anyway.”

It’s a frustrating cycle for the promising bantamweight, one that he hopes he’ll be able to get completely resolved with the help of doctors or a dermatologist, which is why he’s opted to open up about it more in the preamble to this weekend’s fight with Argueta.

Ronnie Lawrence reacts after his bantamweight bout during Dana White's Contender Series event at UFC Apex on September 1, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC)
Ronnie Lawrence reacts after his bantamweight bout during Dana White's Contender Series event at UFC Apex on September 1, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC)

In recent years, questions about how far he can go in the talent-rich 135-pound weight class have been replaced by feelings of uncertainty about his future; a desire to test himself against the best in the world forced to take a back seat to wondering if he’s going to be able to compete at all.

Right now, making it to the Octagon with only the bumps and bruises accumulated throughout camp would be a welcome victory for Lawrence.

“As fighters, we step into the cage and all we think about is winning, but just making it to the fight, at this point, is a win,” he said. “(I’m hoping) that I can focus on fighting again, trying to stay active, try and crack that Top 15 and really see what I’m made of, instead of worrying ‘Do I need to retire? Can I keep doing this? Was I a guy that possibly could have been a champ, but my body gave up?’

“I would really love to make that walk, prove to myself that I can do it. Fighting healthy would be awesome. I haven’t fought healthy since my UFC debut — that was the only fight where I didn’t have any health issues, everything was fine, my immune system wasn’t messed up.”

And two weeks before his fight, everything was trending towards a healthy, focused, motivated Lawrence making the walk this weekend.

“I think we’re gonna make it,” he said confidently. “I hit that spot in camp to where I felt like s*** and felt amazing at the same time.”

Hopefully this will become the new trend for Lawrence, and fans will be able to see what made Dana White so excited about his prospects the night he earned his contract and showcasing the form that carried him to a dominant effort in his promotional debut.

UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs Cannonier took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on June 17, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass