MLW superstar and regular NJPW STRONG competitor “Filthy” Tom Lawlor recently spoke with the NJPW Press to discuss a number of different subjects, including how Lawlor was influenced by the early days of Japanese MMA and his early days of fighting for money at 20 years old. Highlights are below.
How he started in MMA before training for wrestling:
Well, the whole story is that I had my first fight in 2003. Back then there weren’t really any (fight) commissions. The UFC was around, but it wasn’t something that you could make a lot of money in or a career. But I watched it a lot and I thought it was awesome. I knew it’s what I wanted to do. I went in and made 50 bucks for my first fight. After that… Like I said there wasn’t a lot of money at that level. I couldn’t make a career of it, and I was only 20 years old at the time. I trained in around 2005 and then wrestled between 2005 and 2007, which is when I was able to do MMA full time. But in the end, it’s all combat sports. They go about things a little differently, but to me, pro-wrestling and MMA are the same.
The first wrestling he remembers watching, including Japanese wrestling:
The first stuff I remember watching was on ESPN in the States. Global Wrestling Federation, USWA. I was watching WWF at the same time, and definitely WCW Saturday Night. Really everything I could see at the time. I first saw New Japan when guys went to WCW, and when they did the joint shows.
How Great Muta left an impression on him:
You can’t not be mesmerized by Great Muta, obviously. That left a big impression. And Kensuke Sasaki, him wrestling against the Steiner Brothers, that was awesome stuff. But I was so young back then I didn’t really understand much of it, that didn’t come until later on. I really came back into Japanese stuff in the late 1990s.
How he always wanted to see wrestlers succeed in MMA:
Being a pro-wrestling fan, I always wanted to see professional wrestlers do well in MMA. The training, legitimate techniques and holds makes professional wrestling a real, effective combat system.
What he thinks about the relationship between MMA and wrestling now:
People ask me if they expect to see more crossover between martial artists and wrestling now. Of course they will but that’s because MMA is more of an established thing now. Looking back 30, 40 years, you had guys like Willem Ruska in NJPW, or Leon Spinks who just passed away, in FMW. They would be MMA fighters now, but then they were just ‘fighters’. There’s always been a mix.
Crossing in the same circles as WWE’s Matt Riddle:
Well, Matt Riddle (currently WWE) started pro-wrestling a couple of years before I did, and we would be in the same independent circles. People would compare the two of us right away, whether I wanted that or not. I didn’t want to be just an ex MMA guy, riding on the success he was having, or Shayna Baszler (WWE) was having. I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen, and we’re all very different people.