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Robbie Lawler ready to defend title against Carlos Condit

LAS VEGAS -- Since the UFC's 170-pound title was first created in 1998, it has been a case study of eras of individual dominance.

It started with now-UFC Hall of Famer Pat Miletich, who held the title from 1998 to 2000. Next was Matt Hughes. From May 2001 to September 2006, there were 11 UFC title fights at 170 pounds. Hughes was the winner in nine of them.

And between late 2006 and 2013, it was Georges St-Pierre. The Canadian set a welterweight record with nine consecutive title defenses before willingly vacating the belt. During one stretch of his historic title reign, St-Pierre won 33 consecutive rounds.

Whatever era is to come next (if there is one), has yet to identify itself.

Current UFC champion Robbie Lawler (26-10) will seek his second title defense against former interim champion Carlos Condit at UFC 195 on Saturday. The championship fight will headline UFC 195 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Lawler, 33, has been the closest thing to a "face of the division" since St-Pierre officially stepped away exactly two years ago. It has been a perilous run at the top for the Florida-based champion though. He barely edged Johny Hendricks via split decision to win the title last December. In July, he was nearly finished multiple times in an eventual fifth-round knockout over Rory MacDonald. The fight was universally declared Fight of the Year.

Expectations are Saturday's matchup will once again be back-and-forth. Betting odds on the fight are virtually dead even.

"Previous kings and alpha males have retired and there are a bunch of young, hungry guys trying to take that top spot," said Condit, who unsuccessfully challenged St-Pierre for the title in 2012. "The competitors in the division right now are just straight killers. The top 15 is a murderers' row.

"The consensus I'm getting is that this fight is going to be an amazing display of mixed martial arts ability -- and violence. I feel like that's one of the reasons I, personally, have a fan following. I'm not super polished. Things don't always go my way in the cage. But no matter what, I'm trying to finish."

Lawler, who debuted with the UFC as a 20-year-old prospect back in 2002, says he's not motivated by setting records or writing history in the division. He's invested in making improvements in his 15th year as a professional fighter and feels like he's doing so.

He recognizes he's fighting the top of his division every single time out and opponents are especially hungry these days with a title on the line -- but says he's handling that added pressure by focusing only on himself. Although he has had several grueling fights in the past two years, he feels great physically.

"I could see how the list of challengers could become motivation for a champion, but what I'm focusing on is me," Lawler said. "I don't necessarily worry about who I'm fighting or what's on the line. I know Carlos is going to be gearing up to get me, but what I'm gearing up for is being the best I've been."

Condit (30-8), who fights out of Jackson Wink in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says he has already passed any expectations he originally had when he first became involved in MMA.

Unlike Lawler, though, he admits the belt and other tangible accomplishments are part of what motivates him. He wants to be included alongside names like Miletich, Hughes and St-Pierre. A win on Saturday is essentially a necessity in that regard.

"It's more for the public than me personally," Condit said. "I'm proud of what I've done in this sport. I picked this up as a hobby when I was 15, looking up gyms in the phone book and happening to walk into Jackson's. I'm proud of everything I've accomplished, but I want to be in the Hall of Fame. I want to be remembered in that way."

Both champion and challenger have spoken at length about the "fireworks" expected at UFC 195. For the first time in its history, perhaps that best describes the current era of the 170-pound division. One of explosive, competitive fights -- not a single, dominant champ.