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Getting Filthy: An Interview with MLW’s Tom Lawlor

Tom Lawlor recently spoke with Sports Obsessive’s Jon Shartzer for an exclusive interview.

‘Filthy’ Tom Lawlor has been involved in combat sports for the better part of two decades. He was one of the early pioneers of the MMA-to-pro-wrestling revolution. He is MLW’s most recent Opera Cup champion and is due to return to big things in the near future. 

I recently had the opportunity to exchange text messages with the former UFC star and current Major League Wrestling top performer. We talked about the marriage between martial arts and professional wrestling, who he still wants to face in the ring and I tried to get some details on the upcoming “Filthy Island”. Keep reading for all of that and more.

Jon: I heard somewhere that your dream or plan was always to be a pro wrestler. How did you end up in MMA and how did that help shape your wrestling career? Obviously, we’ve seen aspects from both blend into the other since your days in the cage.

Tom: To me, professional wrestling and MMA are much more similar than they are different. When I was younger, there was no avenue to being a professional fighter that was clear in the US. In 1993, there were very few people fighting and even less making money at it. I have been watching professional wrestling as long as I can remember, literally my entire life that I can remember. No one else in my family is passionate about it and no one in my family did martial arts either.

I’ve always just kind of done both of them. My first fight was in 2003 and my first wrestling match was in 2005. The landscape for both sports worldwide was a little different then. I wouldn’t even necessarily say I had a plan to end up in one or the other, I just knew I’d end up in both.

Tom Lawlor has always blurred the line of MMA and Pro Wrestling
Tom Lawlor has always blurred the lines between MMA and Pro Wrestling.

Jon: Who have you trained under and what are the biggest takeaways that you’ve been able to come away with over the years?

Tom: I like to credit Hack Meyers, an ECW original, as my trainer because he’s, unfortunately, no longer with us. But Ricky Vega (Machete in TNA), Vito Denucci, Alex Pourteau and Viper were also very instrumental in training me for the ring. In martial arts? If I were to list everyone I’ve been on the mats and learned from, it would take a lifetime, but the only “traditional” martial art I’m ranked in would be a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt under Tim Burrill.

Jon: Lots of people have made the transition from MMA to wrestling and vice-versa. You were one of the originals to do so. Do you think that the flood of crossovers lately has been a good thing and why or why not?

Tom: How can it be a bad thing? The more styles that are brought into professional wrestling, the better. Whether it’s from forms of combat like Muay Thai or sambo, or sporting disciplines that are more acrobatic, the styles that are brought in that don’t belong will weed themselves out. The same with individuals. There’s going to be plenty of fighters who do professional wrestling and don’t excel. That’s always been the case through history and it always will be. Of course, there’s more crossover from MMA now than there were in the past because MMA has only been a sport for like 30 years.

Tom Lawlor Celebrates winning MLW's 2021 Opera Cup
Tom Lawlor Celebrates winning MLW’s 2021 Opera Cup.

Jon: What led you to Major League Wrestling? Why do you feel that MLW is the right place for ‘Filthy’ Tom Lawlor?

Tom: MLW was restarting at almost the exact time I was getting back in the professional wrestling ring and things just seemed to fit. MLW gave me an avenue that wasn’t open in a lot of places and really has allowed me to grow myself as a wrestler and character as the promotion and brand has grown. I’m happy to be associated as one of the faces of MLW and proud to be so.

Jon: Court and company have been bringing in a lot more talent lately and hinting at partnerships with other promotions including, most recently, Laredo Kid from AAA. Is there anybody that you haven’t faced in an MLW ring yet that you would like to?

Tom: Hammerstone or LA Park. Also, I don’t think most people realize I’m within striking distance of the World Middleweight title limit and competed at the highest level of the UFC middleweight division. That’s a title I’d love to put on my resume. Perhaps a two-division champion?

Jon: That’s an excellent point. Following your big win in the Opera Cup, everybody assumed that Hammerstone or Jacob Fatu were next on your wish list. In your eyes, could it be feasible to see you collect the Middleweight, Openweight and Heavyweight titles all this year?

Tom: Feasible? No, it took me an entire year to even get into the Opera Cup. I’d be surprised if I got one title shot this year, let alone three.

Jon: Is it time for Tom Lawlor to start calling his own shots until you get the opportunities that you deserve?

Tom: I’ll keep calling if anyone is listening. But it doesn’t seem to work out like that. I guess I’ll keep winning and see what happens.

Jon: If you had it your way, what would 2021 hold for you and the rest of Team Filthy?

Tom: We’d wrestle every day of the week and beat the crap out of 330 people. Since that’s an unattainable goal in this global climate, my immediate goal is to produce the best MLW show you’ve seen yet on Filthy Island and then set sails towards a boat full of gold in MLW.

What can we expect from Filthy Island?
What can we expect from Filthy Island?

Jon: What can you tell me about Filthy Island? We’re getting closer and closer to its debut.

Tom: Nothing. There’s been some, uhhh, changes to the scheduled programming. 

Jon: Care to elaborate? Or will we just have to wait and find out?

Tom: Forget what I said, things are fine! Prepare yourself for the biggest, baddest, strongest, most high flying, volatile wrestling show yet. In a beautiful tropical setting.

Jon: Interesting…What final message would you like to leave for the fans, MLW, and the wrestling world as a whole?

Tom: For ‘Filthy’ Tom, even with a horrendous 2020 on many levels, I truly believe that you’re going to see the absolute best out of me in the future.

Jon: Thank you so much again for your time and your insight. It was a true pleasure and I wish you nothing but success moving forward. Hopefully we can do this again down the road.

You can catch “Filthy” Tom Lawlor on MLW Fusion every Wednesday at 7pm EST time on MLW’s YouTube channel. You can keep up with him on Twitter and Instagram by following @FilthyTomLawlor. You can also support him by buying his merch here.

Written by Jon Shartzer

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