LA MIRADA, Calif. – In the days leading up to his UFC 214 fight with Donald Cerrone, Robbie Lawler is having a difficult time dealing with the absence of longtime friend and mentor Matt Hughes.
Hughes (45-9 MMA, 18-7 UFC), a UFC Hall of Famer, was recently involved in a tragic accident where his moving vehicle was struck by a train, leaving the former UFC welterweight champion in a coma. Hughes is apparently now out of the coma and described as “improving,” but Lawler is still understandably filled with concern and feeling the void left by someone who is often by his side throughout fight week.
“It’s been hard,” Lawler said at Thursday’s UFC 214 media day. “He’s usually here with us, right by our side hanging out, making sure I’m all right. It is what it is. He’s doing better, but that’s like something his family should talk about and let the media know through their outlets, not mine.”
UFC 214 takes place Saturday at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Lawler (27-11 MMA, 12-5 UFC) vs. Cerrone (32-7 MMA, 19-4 UFC) airs on the pay-per-view main card following prelims on FXX and UFC Fight Pass.
Lawler, who is fighting for the first time since he lost the UFC 170-pound title to Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 in July 2016, was originally scheduled to fight Cerrone at UFC 213 earlier this month, but the fight was pushed back after “Cowboy” sustained an injury, resulting in a three-week delay to the bout.
“Ruthless” said he had planned to visit Hughes in-person for the first time since his accident after UFC 213. The postponement to the fight prevented that from happening, though.
“It’s been hard,” Lawler reiterated. “Forcing it to this date forced me to not be able to go when I wanted to go.”
Although it would be more than reasonable if the situation threw Lawler, the No. 3 fighter in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings, off his game mentally for the bout with No. 11-ranked Cerrone, he said that’s not necessarily the case. The fight is almost a positive distraction, but once it’s done with, Lawler said he will be able to put his priorities where they need to be when it comes to his friend.
“It’s not on my mind until somebody asks me because I’m pretty good at focusing on what I need to focus on,” Lawler said. “It’s rough.”
For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.