Full Time Fighter: Eric Lawson – PRO MMA Exclusive

 by: Matt De La Rosa

Gladiator Challenge veteran and current Strikeforce middleweight, Eric Lawson will square off against Tony Johnson this Friday November, 21st at Strikeforce: Destruction in San Jose, California.

Eric is undefeated in Strikeforce and is steadily climbing up the ranks.

 He last fought on the Strikfeforce at the Playboy Mansion card submitting Kenneth Seegrist toward the end of round one.

After racking up three straight wins in the San Jose based promotion and winning four of his last five, Eric has started to make a name for himself.

A victory over  the young and undefeated Tony Johnson would put Eric’s Strikeforce record at 4-0 and his overall record at 8-2.

Friday’s contest will mark the sixth fight Eric has had in the past twelve months.  While it has been a breakout year in his young MMA career, Eric is equally as serious about his career outside of the fight game.

Eric Lawson is re-defining what it means to be a “Full Time Fighter.”

PRO MMA: Eric thank you very much for joining us today
Eric Lawson: Thank you for having me Matt I appreciate it

PRO MMA: No problem. Let’s get to it. This Friday at Strikeforce in San Jose your opponent is going to be Tony Johnson. Do you know anything about your opponent?
Eric Lawson:  I’ve seen two of his fight videos, thats about it but from those fight videos I got all the information I need about him. I saw his ground game, I saw his stand up. I think his strengths are going to be in the stand up. It looks like he’s got a good clinch and he’s spent some time working his Muay-Thai. His ground game doesn’t really look too solid so striking is definitely going to be his strength. 

PRO MMA: Eric are you one of those fighters that game plans specifically for an opponent or do you go out there and fight your fight?
Eric Lawson: It’s kind of a case by case senario. I wouldn’t say I necessarily devise a specific game plan per opponent. I like to be aware of what the other guy likes to do just so that I’m ready to answer for what he’s got coming. Most of the time I’m comfortable on my feet, I’m comfortable on the ground, so I’ll go out there and feel the fighter out and see where it goes.  I kind of just go with the flow but I have a general idea of where the fight might go and I try to be prepared for specific moves. If I’m fighting a good Jiu Jitsu guy then we’re going to work alot of submission defense and so on, but when the bell rings you know we’re going to start with the hands and go from there.

PRO MMA: Eric in your last fight, against Ken Seegrist at the Playboy Mansion, you were able to take him down right away  but you fell into a couple of Guillotines. Were you ever in danger of tapping out in that fight?
Eric Lawson: I wasn’t. I had alot of people say they were worried when they were watching the fight but I probably spend an hour a day in Guillotines and grappling with a lot of Jiu Jitsu guys with a lot of different styles. When he went into that Guillotine I saw that as an opportunity to pretty much control the fight. I was able to maintain a safe position where he wasn’t able to lock it in fully. So my perspective was kind of like, “Hey hold onto my head cuz now your defenseless and there’s nothing else you can do.   It’s only a matter of time before I get you to the ground, pop my head out and be in a dominant position.” So when he kept going for my head time and time again, I saw that as him making a mistake and I’m going to captilize on it. So you could say that I was sticking my head right there for bait.

PRO MMA: Do you think when fans and critics see a fighter get caught in a submission they assume the worst instead of seeing potential opportunities and do not look at situtations like being caught in what could be a sloppy submission as beneficial to a fighter?
Eric Lawson: Yeah I would say the general public is going to see it that way. The general public has definitely come leaps and bounds as far as understanding MMA and more specifically understanding the ground game and grappling. It’s a difficult element to understand until you’ve been out there. Only a fighter that has been in the position can feel the pressure that’s around their neck trying to choke them or the pressure could be across their chin rather than the neck. That is the difference of winning or losing a fight and that is a hard thing to see from being a spectator, especially for someone who’s never done any grappling. I think that is an element of the sport that will never be truly understood because of the complexity of grappling.  There are so many different angles and different leverage points you really can’t appreciate them until you’ve been in a triangle, until you’ve been in an armbar. I think the public is always going to generally go with the obvious which is what they see. If someone is in a head lock they think that person is getting choked even though that person could be in a completely safe position.

PRO MMA: In that fight with Ken Seegrist, Ken Shamrock mentioned during the broadcast that when a fighter does alot of picking up and slamming like you were doing he tends to gas out in the later rounds. Can you keep up that pace that you set in the first round against Seegrist for a full fifteen minute fight?
Eric Lawson: Definitely! I would say look at the person that made that comment. I haven’t seen Shamrock go anything longer than two rounds. Maybe he gets gassed picking some guy up and double legging him. I come from a wrestling background. We train hard and we train intense and that’s really the only way I know how to train. When we come into these fights we plan on fighting three rounds at one hundred and twenty percent. I don’t plan on stepping back and taking a breather to catch my breath and go back in for another flurry. I’m going to press it the whole time. Also, picking guys up and slamming them like that…I understand that it doesn’t necessarily hurt the opponent, but it kind of breaks down his will. It’s embarrassing if you’re the guy getting slammed and that just works toward breaking him mentally and that is a huge part of the fight game.

PRO MMA: One thing a lot of fans want to know is how was that experience fighting at the Playboy Mansion?  Was it Playboy Bunnies as far as the eye could see? Some guys have likened it to fighting at a smoker with the small crowd.
Eric Lawson: (Laughs) Yeah, that’s funny. I wish I had a great Grotto story to tell every body, believe you me (laughs) I wish I had a story to tell . I’ve had that question so many times. Pretty much the only bunnies that were there were hired help sitting front row the whole time for part of the show. Outside of that it was pretty much a meat market and more of that smoker event. As soon as the fights were over they pretty much shut everything down and kick everyone out, so there wasn’t too much of an opportunity for an after party. Still…a great time! An awesome event, I loved it and I’d do it again, but there wasn’t any naked chicks in the Grotto and stuff going on that you hear about for their more famous Halloween type parties and stuff.

PRO MMA: This fight that you have on Friday will be your sixth fight in the last twelve months. How has your body held up during this period of time?
Eric Lawson: It’s funny (laughs) I keep feeling like I’m going to get a break and its like, “Oh, then they want me to fight again?” Sure! Alright lets do this. Oh wait, I only had two weeks off…f*ck it, it’s back to the gym! I’ve been pretty fortunate to be pretty much injury free. I’ve had little injuires here and there but nothing that has kept me out. I popped a rib maybe a week after a fight a few months ago, but I had enough time to heal and get back into training. 

PRO MMA: Do you prefer fighting that frequently or would you rather have a couple of months off between bouts?
Eric Lawson: I perfer to fight frequently. If I could, I’d fight back to back. I’d fight every week or two if I could. For me, you’ve done the work spending two or three months getting ready for a fight. You’ve done the work and that’s the hard part. Fighting is the easy and fun part. The hard part is having to go to practice every day, day in and day out and train your a** off. So if I’m already in shape, I’ve already done the work and I’m in condition. Why not go out there and fight again when my body is in that condition? Unfortunatley that doesn’t work out for the promoters because they don’t want you to get hurt. Fighting for two events that close is rare and few and far between. I’ve done it, but promoters do not like it so it doesn’t really work out.

PRO MMA: Off that point, you’re also a Mortgage planner as well. How do you balance those two careers?
Eric Lawson: It’s a lot of work and kind of a love / hate relationship I guess you could say. Pretty much I go to work at the office from nine to five. I leave work, go straight to the gym and punch people in the face unttil eight o’clock at night. Then I go home shower and eat and around that time it’s ten o’clock at night and that’s my day. It can get a bit repetitive but at the same time I like challenging myself and setting difficult goals. When things start to grind on you, you start to wear down and question and say “why am I doing this?” It makes victory that more sweet. Then I go and train hard, win my fight and I look back on it and the fact that I questioned it and may have been down on what I was doing, it makes the reward that much more gratifying. At the same time, you feel good about yourself for being able to push through a difficult situation like that. It builds confidence and that confidence and self discipline I get from going through those types of experiences can apply to everything I do in my life. 

PRO MMA: Eric this is going to be your fourth fight with Strikeforce. What is your contract status with the promotion right now?
Eric Lawson: We keep almost coming to the terms of a three or four fight contract. We can’t quite nail it down to where both parties are happy so we’ve just kept it on a fight to fight basis so far with the intentions of locking down something for the long term probably in the immediate future. There’s a lot of opportunities out there. My fighting career is going pretty well, I’m starting to get a pretty good record to where I feel I might be able to get a shot at some other organizations. For me it works out. I’m happy with the deal that I am getting on a fight to fight basis, and at the same time if something better comes along, I’m not locked in. I can move up to maybe a bigger pay scale or a better opportunity if it’s there. So far so good, we’re happy and they’re happy. 

PRO MMA: Four fights and potentially four wins within an organization, people usually start talking title shot. Is that something that you would be eyeing in 2009 if you get this fourth victory?
Eric Lawson: I would say eventually with the way things are going. There are still a lot of tough middleweights that Strikeforce has got on a card for me to face. They’ve got Terry Martin facing Scott Smith. I don’t know if that’s a one time show. Cung Le, Frank Shamrock…there’s Trevor Prangley when he comes down to 185. If things keep going the way they are…I could see somthing like that possibly happening maybe towards the end of 2009, but there are alot of tough middleweights in the Strikeforce division that I would have to get past to get to that point.  I’m confident just by working hard and with the daily grind tthat is somthing that could be a possibility for me. For now, I gotta beat Tony Johnson and then work my way up the ranks. I’ve defineatley got some work ahead of me but I wouldn’t say that is somthing that is outside my goals or capabilities.

PRO MMA: You mentioned opportunity in your career. A lot of people talk about the UFC being the pinnacle for a mixed martial artist. Is the UFC a goal for you in that sense or do you just want to be the most succesful mixed martial artist that you can be?
Eric Lawson: I would say I want to be the most successful mixed martial artist that I can be. The UFC is obviously the mainstream. For me, being successful in MMA is the lifestyle that you live.  With UFC there are obviously a lot of fighters making good money but there’s also about ten times as more fighters that are probably under contract with them that are making just enough money to get by and rent an appartment and whatever. I’ve got big goals and big aspirations. I pretty much would go where the money and opportunity is. I see there are a lot of positives too it but it looks like there could be situations where it could be a bit limiting.  One thing that I have going for me is a succesful career in the mortgage industry so I’m not the fighter living on my buddies’ couch trying to make it for a living. I don’t have to do anything that is not going to be in my best intrest. I can keep grinding away until the right opportunity comes along. It’s definitely something that I’m interested in and want to work toward getting a shot and working out the details, but I wouldnt say the UFC specifically is my ultimate goal. My ultimate goal would be to fight for a living and make a comfortable living at it.

PRO MMA: Why do think the UFC is associated with being the “end all be all” for a fighter?
Eric Lawson: I think most fighters associate the UFC being the end all be all because it’s definitely a household name for MMA. Most people think that the UFC is actually the name of the sport, like if you would call football, football. I explain to people that it is the NFL of MMA. It’s a household name, it’s all over TV and it gets the most publicity. A lot of the fighters that are fighting today…that is what they grew up watching.   Whether they were wrestling or kickboxing, they grew up watching the UFC dreaming and fantasizing about being a fighter someday.

PRO MMA: Speaking of the UFC, what are your thoughts on Brock Lesnar defeating Randy Couture.
Eric Lawson: Man, my thoughts on Brock Lesnar beating Randy Couture…it was one of those fights where anything’s possible. I think most people logically wanted to give it to Randy because of his experience and expertise. At the same time…yesterday seeing the photos of Brock and Randy squaring off…Brock just looked so big and Randy looked like a kid standing next to him. At some point the phsyical size is going to…is possibly going to overcome technique and experience. It seemed like that was the case. I love to watch Randy but how many times can you come out of retirement, be the super underdog and go out and shock the world and you do it multiple times…eventually when the odds are against you like that you are going to lose. Props to Randy for stepping up, but Brock is just a freak of nature and that’s what it comes down to in a million situations.

PRO MMA: Wrapping things up, how is your fight going to go down this Friday against Tony Johnson.
Eric Lawson: I think the fight is going to be fast paced and aggressive. I think Tony Johnson is going to come out banging. He is undefeated so he has got to be confident. He’s got fast hands. In his last fight he TKO’d the guy in thirty-four seconds. I love the guys who come out banging because I am a fast paced aggressive fighter as well. I could see the fight having some stand up coming off, if we go to the clinch I see myself getting  a takedown from that position or pushing him against the fence and working some dirty boxing. I see the fight ending with me knocking him out or submitting him on the ground. I don’t see this fight getting past the first.

PRO MMA: Any shout outs you’d like to throw to your fans?
Eric Lawson: I love to thank all my fans living out here in Walnut Creek! Thanks for coming to my shows, bringing 600 people from local shows, they are loud and can’t wait for Friday’s fight! I’d like to thank Sinister making my signature T-shirt. MMA Pro Grear in Castro Valley, Kenny at Max Muscle in Walnut Creek, Guadalajara Grill in Concord, Nakid clothing, hit2hurt, Jamison Blaine. Bill, Barry, Stan and Ryan at Grindetone Films. And a very special thanks to Combat Fitness in Concord; hit us up on the net!  Gil Castillo and George Tsutsui!

PRO MMA: Eric thank you very much for your time and best of luck to you.
Eric Lawson: Thank you Matt and PRO MMA, I appreciate the time!

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