Just two fights removed from fighting in the UFC, Justin Lawrence (6-2) has resurged with the RFA. In his third outing with the promotion, “The American Kidd” will put his featherweight belt on the line for the first time against the undefeated Sam Toomer (9-0).
Lawrence is aware of how much power Toomer can deliver in his punches. But overall, the 24-year-old athlete sees many other areas where he can capitalize in the showdown. While he’s not overlooking his competition, the TUF Live alum feels the experience he’s gained in his career will be a difference maker for him.
“He’s not only good fighter, he’s a good athlete as well,” said Lawrence in an interview with The Fight Corner. “With that being said, it makes him dangerous. He’s real long, so I’ve got to keep my feints up, draw him in and get inside, and do what I do best, look for the takedown and really get inside and let my hands go.
“I feel like I’m a lot faster,” Lawrence continued. “I feel like my power’s just as good as his if not, I have more. But he’s going to be tricky getting on the inside because he’s so long and so tall. But that’s my job and that’s what I put 8 weeks into my camp to do and I’m going to go do that and show that Friday, April 10th.”
Lawrence was released from the UFC back in Apr. 2013 following his second loss with the promotion. He signed with Resurrection Fighting Alliance shortly after and has gone 2-0 under their banner. At RFA 17, Lawrence claimed the featherweight title, taking a decision over Mark Dickman.
As his first title defense draws closer, Lawrence feels the pressure mounting. But that nervous anticipation is nothing new. A long-time combat sports competitor with a lengthy history in kickboxing, Lawrence said that tension helps him keep his edge.
“I feel like every fight is a title fight for me because you never want to lose in the MMA game. You’ve got to win every fight, that’s the only way to really get anywhere and to make money is to win every fight. It’s equal pressure. I still get super nervous. You’re not human if you’re not. I feel like it’s just as equal pressure [defending the title] as winning the title. Now, I just got to go in there and defend it. I’m ready, I’m so pumped for it,” Lawrence stated.
During his run on The Ultimate Fighter Live, Lawrence was the first overall pick of Dominick Cruz’s. A few years ago, Lawrence set up camp in San Diego with Alliance MMA where he has again worked closely with the former UFC bantamweight champion. Cruz has devoted a ton of time to Lawrence’s camp, cornered him and advised him every step of the way. Having that relationship has boosted Lawrence’s confidence and also helped him to add more weapons to his arsenal.
Lawrence believes he’s come a long way from the fighter he once was. He hopes that those improvements shine through at RFA 25 in South Dakota this Friday and prompts the UFC to give him a second chance to show it in the Octagon.
“That’s why I fight,” said Lawrence. “Every fight is to get back to the big stage. That’s another thing that I feel I have an advantage on Toomer. I’ve been there…I’ve been five rounds and Toomer hasn’t been five rounds. Those are are little, key factors that give me a little bit of confidence to go towards this fight with him.
“At the end of the day, you can never be overconfident in the fight game because when you are overconfident, that’s when the worst happens. With that being said, I feel I do have that advantage of Dominick Cruz working with me all the time and just being at that bigger stage. I definitely hope to be pulled up here soon in the UFC and hope to fight on that stage as well.”
At Alliance MMA, Lawrence feels he’s been forced to push himself to his limits and work to improve all aspects of his game. Having teammates like Jeremy Stephens, Myles Jury,Johnny Case and Dominick Cruz and coaches like Neil Melanson and Eric DelFierro inspire him to become the best version of himself there is.
With his camp behind him and a stronger mindset than ever, Lawrence sees no way he falters when it comes time to prove why he’s the division’s champion.
“To be honest with you, I feel like I bring more to the table everywhere than Sam,” Lawrence said. “I think I’m a better striker than him. I feel like I’m a better wrestler than he is and I also feel like I can control him on the ground better than he can control me on the ground. I’m just better everywhere. With that being said, I’m going to go out there and implement my game plan and go out there and fight how Justin Lawrence knows how to fight and I won’t be beat.”
“At the end of the day, I feel like I’m going to be the guy that gives Sam Toomer his first loss and I’m excited to show it Apr. 10th.”
The entire main card of RFA 25: Lawrence vs. Toomer will be televised live on AXS TV starting at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT on Friday, April 10th.