Rivalries — especially heated ones — are some of the most important cogs that keep the combat sports machine rolling along. For years, prizefighting promotions have been able to fill arenas because two men despise each other, talk trash and then settle their beefs inside the ring or cage. And virtually nothing builds as much hype as a rematch between bitter rivals.
On Friday, March 31 in the Allstate Arena just northwest of Chicago, former Pride and UFC superstar Quinton Jackson will look to go up 2-0 on nemesis Muhammed Lawal in the main event of Bellator 175. Jackson got the better of “King Mo” when they initially squared off back in 2014 at Bellator 120, but Lawal believes he was robbed by the judges. He vows not to allow that happen the second time around.
“For this fight right here, I’m going to be healthy,” Lawal during a media call to promote the event. “I’ll have been at American Top Team for two years because last time I was new to the gym. I’m ready to go. All that talking in past is done. I’m ready to rumble.”
The call was orderly at first, with both men remaining calm and answering questions with relative politeness. But once “Rampage” said that his plan was to “beat [Lawal’s] ass,” and then claimed that the MMA world wants him to conquer Lawal again, things quickly unraveled.
“The MMA fans and media aren’t suckas, they’re not fools,” Jackson remarked. “They know a real rivalry when they see one. They know that ‘King Mo’ runs his mouth and I think most MMA fan want me to shut his mouth.”
Lawal later said that Bellator has changed the canvas it uses inside the cage because the old one was too slippery. But when “Rampage” said that he never had a problem with it, Lawal called his rival a liar. From there, the former NCAA wrestling standout questioned his nemesis’ integrity for demanding the fight be held at heavyweight and said that the former UFC light heavyweight champ has gotten fat and sloppy.
Jackson didn’t bite his tongue, either, and the conference call quickly devolved from there. Jackson attacked his foe’s face, calling him ugly, and questioned his manhood and pierced nipples.
“You’re corny, you’re lame,” an amused Lawal shot back at one point. “You need new material. You need a ghostwriter. I was in Memphis and your own city don’t give you love. You’re looking old, dog.”
When Lawal returned to the notion that fight will be at heavyweight, not his usual light heavyweight, he again targeted Jackson’s perceived bloated body. As expected, “Rampage” went on the defensive, but not before launching a classic insult right at his rival’s head.
“We can tell King Mo don’t care about weight; look at his girlfriend,” Jackson barked. “’King Mo’ wants to talk about my weight and thinks it will hurt my feelings. It ain’t no secret that I’m older and I have a thyroid problem and that it’s hard for me to lose weight. But I went and saw a specialist and my coaches and we decided to go to heavyweight. I wish I was fighting a banger, someone who wants to stand in there, not somebody who wants to hold you down and squeeze you for the judges. The crowd loses out on that; they want a rumble.
“I never asked to fight ‘King Mo,’ Jackson continued. “He wanted this. I knew if I’d fight ‘King Mo’ again, it’d be a wrestling match. I’m a striker and everybody knows how my career went. I put on shows, I come to fight. I’m doing Bellator a favor by taking this fight with Mo.”
Later, a member of the media asked if the combatants felt pressure to finish the upcoming fight to prove a point. For once, both men agreed on something.
“Every time you go out there to fight, you try to get that knockout,” Lawal stated. “You try to make a statement. Nobody goes out there trying to get a split decision. If the knockout don’t come, you just gotta get that ‘W.’ But we all go out there and go for that finish. That’s why we throw punches.”
“All bullshit aside, ‘King Mo’ is really good at his craft,” added Jackson in. “I can talk shit about him all day but let’s be honest; ‘King Mo’ is a very established wrestler in MMA. He has great ground-and-pound and out of a lot of people I fought, he’s got better takedowns. But I don’t ever put pressure on myself to finish him. I want to finish him but if it don’t come, I just want to get that W.”