With the biggest fight of his life staring him right in the face, Bobby Voelker told the UFC’s matchmakers to hang tight. He’d get back to them.
But it wasn’t a matter of Voelker (24-9 MMA, 0-1 UFC) not being interested in acting as a late-notice opponent for Robbie Lawler (20-9 MMA, 5-3 UFC) this Saturday. Not at all.
Instead, the welterweight just wanted to make sure his team was in on the plan and make sure he was doing what was best for his career. And the response came back fairly unanimously.
“I was absolutely sure. I was down,” Voelker told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “Me saying I want it, that’s the fighter in me speaking. I needed someone a little more on the business side looking at it from another point of view.
“They looked at it like, ‘You’ve got nothing to lose. You’re going in there against a top-eight guy, and you’re going to perform great.’ I know I’ll perform great. ‘You’re going to be on live television in front of all these people, you’re going to get the recognition, all this. And you’re going to get the biggest win of your career.’”
Voelker was scheduled to meet James Head next month at UFC Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis. Instead, when Siyar Bahadurzada had to pull out of the fight with Lawler less than two weeks ago, Voelker got the call to step up.
Going more than five weeks early is a small price to pay for Voelker, who will be going after his first UFC victory after a 4-1 run in Strikeforce. He debuted with the UFC in March, dropping a unanimous decision to Patrick Cote at UFC 158 in Cote’s native Quebec.
Although Lawler doesn’t appear in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA welterweight rankings, he is ranked No. 9 on the UFC’s list of 170-pounders and is coming off an impressive first-round TKO of onetime title challenger Josh Koscheck.
So Voelker knows this one could be big – and Lawler is a 3-to-1 favorite.
“I’m happy with the opportunity I’m getting here – it’s just great for me,” he said. “I had already been training, so I was in pretty good shape. They called me to ask me about it, I ran it by my manager and trainers, and we all came to the conclusion of let’s do it. This is a huge opportunity and it’s not one you want to pass up.”
Voelker, who perhaps is best known for a trilogy of fights against Roger Bowling in Strikeforce that saw him go 2-1 with back-to-back TKO wins, had to shift things up from training for the orthodox Head to the left-handed slugger Lawler.
But in terms of training for Lawler’s power, that was a different story. The Midwesterner had an up-and-down run in Strikeforce, including a loss in a middleweight title fight. But ht appeared to be rejuvenated in February when he dropped to welterweight for the first time in nearly eight years and took out Koscheck.
“Robbie’s coming in to knock you out – that’s what Robbie does best,” Voelker said. “But on top of that, he is a great wrestler and he can use it whenever he chooses to. Robbie’s no slouch, and I’m not taking him lightly by any means. I’ve been training hard and I’m ready to go. I’ve got a real good team and a lot of guys stepping up. We were able to get a whole lot of southpaws stepping up to kind of imitate Robbie’s style a little bit. But Robbie’s just such a quick, agile, speedy, powerful fighter that it’s hard to get people to imitate him. But at least we can get people to do the southpaw thing.
“We really just crammed Robbie’s style in my skull, and that’s all I see. That’s what I dream about.”
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