Fun and Games Part of the Plan for ‘King Mo'

By Lutfi Sariahmed Jan 16, 2009
He comes out to the ring with his four queens. He dances and tries to get the referee involved in his routine before his fights. He might be called arrogant, cocky and maybe even disrespectful. But if you ask him, that’s just who Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal is.

“That’s actually a part of my personality,” Lawal told Sherdog Radio’s “The Savage Dog Show” on Monday. “People who don’t know me just as a fighter and know me as a person know I like to have fun. I’m a cool dude. I’m not an asshole even if you think I am cause I’m celebrating.”

Lawal isn’t celebrating when he trains though.

“I spend six weeks uptight, training hard and preparing for a battle,” he said. “Pretty much battle time is a fun time. That’s when you should have fun. Training is when you buckle down and you’re serious and you don’t let loose, when you get in the ring that’s the time to let loose. I train so hard to give my fans a good show so I do it all from start to finish.”

It’s that dedication that has contributed to the 2007 U.S. Open wrestling gold medalist’s meteoric rise. He’s 3-0 after his first-round technical knockout over Yukiya Naito on Jan. 4 at World Victory Road’s “Sengoku No Ran” in Saitama, Japan. But the wins aren’t enough -- Lawal believes there’s a place for entertainment in MMA.

“Some people just want everyone to be like Fedor (Emelianenko) or ‘Cro Cop’ (Filipovic),” said Lawal, who wrestled for Oklahoma State and Central Okalahoma. “But if MMA had everybody act like Fedor and Cro Cop, who would want to watch it? How would you sell fights? Fedor vs. Cro Cop over and over again would give you the same interviews all the time. No one would buy a fight like that.”

It’s also why, when asked about the criticism UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans has received for his own antics, the 2002 Div. II champion becomes a bit more animated.

“Rashad’s holding back,” said Lawal. “I’ve known Rashad since college. He can let loose even more. Sometimes people are negative to Rashad because they haven’t embraced Rashad yet. And I’m sorry Antonio McKee, you told me not to say this, but Rashad is a different color and they can’t relate to him.”

Lawal said other fighters have been given more leeway than his friend.

“Rashad is a cool dude,” Lawal said. “Just because Rashad did some stuff in the ring doesn’t mean he’s an a-----e. You don’t see people complaining about some of the stuff Genki Sudo was doing. Everyone thought that was cool. They thought it was cool when Tito starting flipping people off. But let Rashad do a few things and people start trippin’.”

There are more sides to Lawal than he initially lets on. He’s a combat sports historian weary of what he calls the David Reid effect, in which a boxer who came up through the ranks too quickly was beaten up against his first elite opponent in Felix “Tito” Trinidad. Having an eye on everything going on around him, Lawal aspires “to be a mixture of Lyoto Machida going backwards if I have to and Anderson Silva coming forward.” He has a great appreciation for Machida’s style.

“He’s not a defensive fighter,” said Lawal. “It’s counter-offensive fighter. He’ll move, you’ll miss [and] then he’ll make you pay. A defensive fighter will just move and not do anything afterwards. But if you chase Machida he’ll make you pay for it. [Olympic wrestler and UFC vet] Kevin Jackson came up with that term. MMA is not just bashing people. MMA is not a kickboxing match with MMA gloves and sub par or no grappling. If you’re a wrestler, take him down. But there’s no game plan or tactics in so many of these fights. Lyoto Machida is one of the more athletic fighters I’ve seen and he’ll use his game plan and everything to get the victory. That’s what a fight is supposed to be. Not a brawl. If they’re both smart, that’s what a true fight is supposed to be.”

Lawal’s aspirations in the sport are as detailed as the pre-show appearances he makes with his royal entourage.

“My goal in this sport is to become a legend,” Lawal said. “I’m going to win at 205 then move up to heavyweight. I want to fight where I could take on the best people. Right now I’m still a prospect. I look at Sherdog sometimes and look at people saying I should be fighting Nogueira or Manhoef and them. Yeah, I should fight them but I’m only 3-0. I’m not the best fighter in the world right now. I didn’t ask for the hype. This is my job. I have to build my way up.”
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