(Jeff ‘Ippon’ Lawson, the likeable TUF star who is rejuvenated at featherweight.)
Jeff Lawson was a prominent figure on the UK MMA scene, even before his stint on The Ultimate Fighter. His rise to prominence worldwide was largely aided by the reality show, however, and he garnered a lot of fans for his likeable persona and ample skill set.
Whilst Americans would have heard very little of Jeff since the show, he has returned to action and his aim is to fight his way back to the big time, not fade into obscurity.
The quest hit a road bump as Lawson suffered a crushing knockout defeat to Kenneth Rosfort, a man that he so lovingly refers to as “that big Danish guy”. He got back on the horse this weekend when he halted the momentum of the previously undefeated Karsten Lenjoint at Shock N’ Awe MMA on England’s south coast.
“To be honest, I was really nervous,” Jeff admitted. “I stayed off the internet way before the fight as there’s so much bullshit on there and if you read too much into it, it can affect you.
“I was coming off the back of two losses, one in The Ultimate Fighter and one to Rosfort. If you lose three in a row it can really tell you something, and for me to drop off and not get anywhere after all this time would have been a real shame, so there were a lot of nerves. As soon as I got in there I felt at home though. I had my team around me and a switch flipped, I was ready to go.”
It was like he’d never been away and any hint of nervousness ceased to be a problem as soon as he laid hands on his Nottingham-based adversary. The fight lasted just thirty-four seconds, with Jeff sinking in a standing guillotine on the already dazed Lenjoint to end the fight.
“It really couldn’t have gone better, apart from maybe being over a little too quickly,” Jeff joked. “I’d trained hard and I didn’t allow him the time to settle in.”
Don’t take that as a disrespectful gesture towards his opponent; Jeff is the consummate professional and one of the most genuine guys in the business. He was merely overwhelmed by his own progression and how the hard work in preparation had bore fruit so quickly.
“He [Karsten] is not a mug, it was no mismatch. He was 6-0 coming into the fight and obviously fancied his chances otherwise he wouldn’t have taken it!”
The bout played out just as he had envisaged and the linear route to victory had been practiced and drilled many times in the lead up to the contest. Working with a world champion kickboxer, John Orchard, Jeff said many people have since attested to how crisp he looked in the stand-up portion of the encounter, after being largely recognised as a submission threat.
“The money I spent on privates with John was worth its weight in gold,” he added. As he’d been working on, a thudding overhand right signalled the beginning of the end for Lenjoint before Lawson locked in the submission. “I’d worked on the same combinations and there was instant success. Drilling the things over and over obviously worked for me as I had success with them straight away.”
Continuing to evolve as a fighter in terms of skills is important to Lawson, especially as he turns a corner with the drop to featherweight for the first time. Remaining static means not evolving with the times and the Judoka turned mixed martial artist is mutating and taking every area of his game to the next level. He dreams of a return to the big time and yearns for Japan, as a traditional martial artist at heart. For now though, he’s at 145lbs, doing the earnest work domestically once again to build on the foundations he has set.
“Without a doubt my future is at sixty-five kilos,” came the assertion. “I felt better and the cut was easy. I’d had a lot of help from people but the weight came off easily with cardio and just basic calorie balance. By no means am I ‘big’ at the weight still. Even though I’ve dropped, there are some monsters down here, but I felt stronger and I think the punches are more telling on a guy my own size.”
Whilst the thought of going even further has crossed his mind, the man they call ‘Ippon’ won’t be making any decisions of that nature whilst he’s comfortable where he is.
“I’ve got the cut down to a tee and people have been saying I look great. Apart from my mum, she doesn’t like it. She thinks I look too skinny, but that’s mums for you!”
Fresh off the back of a good victory, Lawson is brimming with confidence once more and he’s ready to attack the fighting world with a new vigour.
“I don’t look like a fighter, I look like a schoolboy,” Jeff joked. “But I can do it where it counts.”
He certainly can, and we’re looking forward to seeing him making a splash in his new weight class; prospects abound and with a renewed enthusiasm for his career.