Lawler comes full circle at UFC 171

I was worried about him getting seriously hurt. I thought his chance to win the fight was completely gone because Manhoef was doing so much damage. I went into, 'Oh my God, he's going to hurt him severely.' And then for him to win on a shot like that [Lawler knocked out Manhoef with a right hand], it was one of the most exciting comebacks I've ever been a part of.

Pena: I was training Matt [Hughes] at the end of his career, and when Matt lost to Georges St-Pierre [in November 2006 and December 2007], Robbie was helping me corner and I thought, 'Man. If only I could get this guy back in the UFC. Rob is the future.'

Rob has always been somebody who pushed Matt in the gym because he was seen as the younger brother. When we'd get Matt ready to fight, I could see how invested Rob was emotionally. When St-Pierre came through with an impressive victory, I literally looked over right afterwards and could see it in Rob's eyes. He was thinking the same thing I was -- that at some point in his career, he wanted to get in there.

Hughes: There were several times -- twice actually that I know of, that I fought and lost -- and Rob's walking backstage and gotten into fistfights with crowd members that are bad-mouthing me. I think one of them was after GSP in Sacramento [when Hughes fought him at UFC 65 in November 2006].

I didn't see it because I was already ahead of him in the locker room, and Robbie doesn't say anything, so he didn't say much about it. But he was fuming that I lost and someone said I sucked or something, and Robbie looked at him and said, 'You better knock it off.' The guy came at Robbie and Robbie hit him, and then got away. The cops were watching the whole thing, and the guy ended up getting tased. So, a drunk fan got hit by Robbie and tased in one night.

Cox: In Strikeforce, it was very frustrating for everybody because Robbie would go out and look great in the first three to four minutes of every fight and then just falter. He said it felt like he was breathing through a straw.

He went to several doctors and found it was a lung problem, and he was getting it from going out to Arizona to train with [Power MMA].

Miletich: For several years, Monte would have talks with Rob. 'Why don't you go back to 170 pounds where you belong, get yourself back in the UFC and win a world title?' He saw being at 185 pounds that long as a challenge. I think he liked the fact he could walk around at 192 pounds, miss one meal and make weight and fight guys who were cutting down from 230 pounds.

Nobody knows why he thought that. He was having problems with asthma and just couldn't do anything. I think he just liked the challenge. I think eventually as he got older and years of us saying things to him, he said, 'Maybe I should drop to 170 and make a run at this.'

Cox: I've never doubted him, but I have to tell you, there was a time in Strikeforce where he just wasn't able to put it together. You'd look back on the fights and he could have won every one of them but something would happen and you'd think, 'Is he just the unluckiest guy around?'

Then all of a sudden, something has changed. [In February 2013] when we took the [Josh] Koscheck fight, I asked him, 'Are you sure? He's a good wrestler.' He said, 'He can take me down but he can't keep me down, and eventually I'll hit him. And by gosh, that's about exactly what happened.'

Lawler: I never really cared about a belt. It's funny, because I just wanted to fight. It seems like every fight is for the belt -- some invisible belt. Every time, no matter what, you go all out and give it your best and try to win. But my mindset has changed. Obviously, this is a huge opportunity, and I'm excited to shine.

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