UFC welterweight champ Robbie Lawler won ‘Fight of the Year’ at the World MMA Awards for last year’s war with Rory MacDonald, and is already in the running once more for this year with his January battle with Carlos Condit. This month in FO, the 170lb champ reveals how he is able to dig deeper than any opponent when the going gets tough.

It’s not the man standing across the cage that Lawler is afraid of in the final round. Even though he may be staring down the barrel of a points defeat against a world-class competitor – ears ringing, face running red and the lactic acid searing through his arms and legs. After all, the champion fears no man in 4oz gloves.

It’s those officials, armed with pencils and perceptions all of their own, that deliver shivers down his spine. It’s these three figures that ignite the fear and a fire within him. It’s a fear of failure. Fear of allowing someone to take away from him what he’s worked tirelessly and often against seemingly insurmountable odds for the past 20 years to achieve. That’s what drives Lawler on when it matters most.

“It’s just a fear of leaving it in the judges’ hands. That’s what pushes me to work and push for the finish in the final round,” explains arguably the most dangerous fifth-round fighter in MMA history. “It’s the last round, so I leave it all out there and go for the finish.

“My team train me very well so I’m always fresh going into that last round and I feel I’ve got so much more than the other guy. I have great energy, and that comes down to my coaching from my strength and conditioning and fight coaches. Those guys get me ready to showcase my skills and I take so much confidence from that. I know I can go hard in the final round because I have the energy levels to do it.”

He hails the crew of coaches at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida that have helped the 33-year-old prepare for those tests and turn his career around from the dark depths of his 3-5 Strikeforce run. Among them is S&C coach Brian Harris, whose work the champ is quick to praise. He champions the fact his fitness guru was also shortlisted in this year’s World MMA Awards, for ‘Trainer of the Year’ – largely because of Lawler’s bottomless gas tank.

“It’s great and very deserved that Brian’s been recognized for the work he’s done with me and the rest of the team at ATT,” Lawler says. “He’s been working with me ever since I came back to the UFC. He’s done a great job of getting me ready for these fights, getting my body in shape. We are always improving; always doing different things. He’s really done a great job of pushing me and turning things up at the right time.

“I would say he’s added years to my career. He’s definitely upped my game. Working on my strength, speed and endurance – which has never been so good. I was a guy who’d never had a strength and conditioning coach before like him. He’s awesome.”

Read the full interview with Robbie Lawler inside the April edition of Fighters Only – on sale this week.