Lance "The Tornado" Lawrence

Lance Lawrence training at Jeffersontown's Gracie Jiu-Jitsu ahead of July's UFC fight

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Lance Lawrence just celebrated his 26th birthday, but his real present could be delivered July 16.

The Southern High School graduate is one of the MMA fighters invited to ESPN’s Contender Series. The result could not only be a nationally televised bout but also a possible UFC contract.

“No matter what the result is, just having this opportunity to prove myself and show what I can do is definitely a dream come true,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence, nicknamed "The Tornado," will face Kevin Syler in the Contender Series event. Both fighters are undefeated heading into the bout.

The fight under the lights in Las Vegas is a long way from the garage in Okolona where he said he started training with amateur MMA fighters when he was 16 years old. Lawrence now trains in Jeffersontown’s Gracie Jiu-Jitsu with Scott Smith, who will be in his corner in this month’s fight.

Smith said from the time he first met Lawrence, the fighter told him he would eventually become a UFC fighter.

“He said that without hesitation or reservation,” Smith said.

After training him and seeing his performance in camps, Smith said, “I firmly believe he will be in the UFC.”

Lawrence’s father was killed by a drunk driver before he was born. He said his father was a Golden Gloves boxer, and his mother tells him he inherited some of the fearlessness in the ring from his late father.

Lawrence said he also finds inspiration from the city’s most famous fighter.

“Muhammad Ali ... said Louisville’s the greatest city on Earth, and he (believed) one day there would be another world champion from Louisville," he said. "So I always hold those words close to my heart.”

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