by MMAWeekly.com
Icon Sport President T.Jay Thompson on Saturday announced at a press conference in the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu that “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler has been stripped of his Icon Sport middleweight title for “failing to adequately defend.”

“Last year was a rough year. For various illnesses and injuries Robbie Lawler pulled out of three Icon events in 2007,” stated Thompson. “It’s not fair. It’s not fair to Icon Sport. Not fair to Kala Kolohe Hose who has been waiting nearly a year for his title shot. And, most importantly, it’s not fair to our fans.”

Lawler fought three times in 2007, defeating Eduardo Pamplona in the International Fight League, defeating Frank Trigg to obtain the Icon Sport middleweight championship and defended the belt against Murilo “Ninja” Rua in September.

Lawler responded in a statement, saying, “I’m disappointed and upset. But I understand why this happening. In 2007, I did well when I was healthy. I took out Trigg and then I beat Ninja. I accept the decision, but I promise everyone that I will return. And I will get my belt back.”

After reading Lawler’s statement, Thompson announced that Lawler may compete on the undercard of the promotion’s March 15 event, pending word from his camp that he is healthy and ready to participate.

Hawaiian knockout artist Kala Kolohe Hose has waited nearly a year to fight Lawler for the title. On March 15, Hose will get his shot at the title, but it won’t be against Lawler.

Hose will meet Ultimate Fighting Championship, Pride, and Strikeforce veteran Phil Baroni for the now vacant title.

Thompson commented, “We’ve been talking to Phil about fighting in Icon for nearly five years. And I can’t tell you how happy we are to have him finally make his way here. Phil Baroni will be right at home in Icon. His explosive fighting style is exactly what our fans want, and it perfectly matches the style of Kala Kolohe Hose.”

Baroni was in attendance when the announcement was made and stated, “This is a long time coming. I’ve wanted to fight for Icon for years. A week ago, T.Jay called me up and made an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

When asked about his March 15 opponent, Baroni said, “Kala is like a young version of me. I like him. It is too bad Lawler was afraid to fight him, but I’m not. I’ve been fighting top guys my entire career and I’m going to show the Hawaiian fans what a real middleweight champ looks like. On March 15, I’m going home with the Icon belt.”

Hose was also in attendance and responded to Baroni’s statements. “This is going to fun. I think Phil is a tough guy. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight for all my fans out there. And I know Phil is the kind of guy who’s not going to pull out at the last minute. This is going to be fun.”