How Lawler taught Magny that he could make it in MMA

Neil Magny spoke recently with Damon Martin for MMA Fighting, ahead of his fight vs. Robbie Lawler, in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN+ 33 on Saturday night. Magny was scheduled to fight Geoff Neal, but Neal withdrew from the event due to health issues, and Lawler stepped up. 

Tonight’s fight brings Magny back to the beginnings of his career, when he was a college student at Southern Illinois University, and ventured into the nearby HIT Squad gym. After eventually training alongside Lawler and gym co-owner Matt Hughes, Magny came to understand he could succeed at the highest levels of the sport.

“The training was tough,” recalled Magny. “I remember days being in the gym and it was never an easy round. I was at a point where I said do I really want to do this for a living? What gave me the confidence to pursue MMA as a full-time job was what I experienced in that room.

“Sparring full-on with guys like Robbie Lawler, Matt Veech, Brian Foster, those kinds of guys, that let me know ‘you can compete in the sport and do well’ and that motivated me to keep going with the sport and let me know I could hang with the best in the world.”

“If and when I was supposed to fight [Neal], it was like all right cool you beat an up and comer, good for you. As opposed to beating Robbie Lawler, the reaction I’ll get is ‘damn dude, you took out another legend. That’s the kind of reaction I’m looking for.”

“When I sparred [Lawler] back in the day, that let me know I was able to do this full time and be a fighter that could make it to the UFC. Now at this point, beating Robbie Lawler, it lets me know I can be a UFC champion.”

Magny is coming off wins over Li Jingliang in March and Anthony Rocco Martin in June. Lawler will be the third former (interim) welterweight champion he has fought, after Carlos Condit and Johny Hendricks.

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