So he says.
Lawal dropped the belt in the summer of 2010 to Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante after suffering a knee injury and losing much of his explosiveness, which kept him from avoiding the the Brazilian's strikes.
The former standout Oklahoma State University wrestling standout learned his lesson, took over a year off to properly heal, and by the time he came back to mixed martial arts (MMA) competition, he destroyed undefeated prospect Roger Gracie via first round knockout.
His win, coupled with Dan Henderson vacating his title to head to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), created an opportunity to get his title back. And "King Mo" can punch his ticket to compete for that shot if he can get past Lorenz Larkin this weekend on the Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine" main card. Lawal spoke with Bloody Elbow Radio about training with Lyoto Machida in Brazil, utilizing his own stand up against Larkin and revealed some of the best pranks he's pulled on the MMA world.
See for yourself:
Matt Bishop: We were talking with Lorenz Larkin, who you'll be fighting against on Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine and he told us he was training his wrestling with Kurt Angle.
Muhammed Lawal: Ok, that's cool.
Matt Bishop: Although he revealed to us he was not indeed serious, and Angle is apparently training for the Olympics again. Do you think anybody he could train with could help him stop your wrestling?
Muhammed Lawal: Well who says I'm gonna wrestle? Yeah, I've got a wrestling background, but y'all see my fights? I've only used wrestling in about 2-3 fights. I don't use wrestling much at all. Who says I've got to wrestle? I like to throw hands too.
Matt Bishop: Throwing hands has come so naturally to you and we've seen it evolve fight to fight in that aspect. What do you attribute that to the most?
Muhammed Lawal: Great coaches and my willingness to learn. I'm a student of combat. I watch K-1, Muay Thai, I love boxing. That keeps me open and then I go train with Jeff Mayweather, Javier Mandez and many, many others and I get a lot of work in my stand-up. I enjoy the stand-up.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You went back and you helped Lyoto Machida for a couple weeks in Brazil. You said that Machida's brother and his dad are "geniuses." I'm wondering what was it about working with them that made you think they were so smart in the sport?
Muhammed Lawal: It's like this, man. I was there for two weeks. I showed Lyoto a few things, we got some takedown defense things out. I'd take him down, I'd show him one thing and his dad, with no wrestling background would be like, "You're doing this, this and this wrong." I showed that move to him just once and his dad's already got the whole thing picked up and he's critiquing Lyoto's practice. His brother was the same way. They both have a keen eye for small details. Their system just works. I see why Lyoto is a good fighter.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You went down there to help Lyoto, but was there a give and take where they helped you improve some bits and pieces of your game as well?
Muhammed Lawal: Yeah, I brought my boxing coach and I was working some boxing and some MMA stuff and I picked up a lot out there. I was just getting in some training techniques and sparring together. That was good enough.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Lorenz Larkin, people talk about him as this flashy striker, but when you see a lot of the best guys in the world, it's those straight strikes, the fundamental stuff that they've perfect. What's your take on his flashiness versus your fundamentals in the striking game?
Muhammed Lawal: Flash just works for him, but he's a whole different fighter. Whatever he does, it works for him. It's not gonna work against me, though.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When we spoke to Lorenz, he talked about who he'd been working with and he has been working with some solid names, Phil Davis and Kenny Johnson, the Team Blackhouse wrestling coach. How much can he realistically grow in the four weeks since the fight got announced?
Muhammed Lawal: I know Kenny Johnson. He's got a good Greco background and I know him well from wrestling. I know Phil Davis. He can help him but Phil's got a different style. He's a different type of wrestler, it's conflicting styles. Phil Davis is like a black Ben Askren and Kenny Johnson's a grinder. I'm cool with Kenny but if he needs help for wrestling for his next fight, he can't do it right now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've got a question here sent by a fan "There was a rumor going out from last year about you sparring with top K-1 kickboxer Tyrone Spong and you got some of your front teeth knocked out. What possessed you to go against Spong hard with no mouthpiece?"
Muhammed Lawal: Can I tell you a secret? That shit is all a lie. I made that shit up. I made it all up. People don't realize that in MMA, I could say, "Guess what, I submitted Jacare!" and people are like, "Mo submitted Jacare!" Here's the thing that happened. Siyar [Bahadurzada], Siyar the Killer went on twitter with this joke like, "Hey, look at Mo's grill, dude's missing teeth because he was sparring with Tyrone Spong." He was just joking and people saw that and were like, "Aww man, Mo got his teeth knocked out by Tyrone Spong," and I was like, "Siyar, here's the password to my twitter. Go out and tell everyone it was not a joke and say, 'Hey, I'm going to get my teeth fixed, but I'll be alright,'" but by the time Siyar tweeted that, it was like 9 o'clock at nighttime. It really never happened. We just made it up. It was all a joke.
You know how dumb people are, they don't care to do research. Just like I got choked out by James Toney. I got submitted by James Toney. Remember when I said that? And people were like, "Aw, man, Mo sucks. He got submitted by James Toney." That was fake too. I could have just as easily said I sparred with James Toney and knocked him out with one right hand.
Matt Bishop: This is an important fight for you because it could determine whether you get a light heavyweight title match or not. Is that something you're looking forward to doing? Getting back into the cage, fighting this fight and then fighting for that championship?
Muhammed Lawal: Yeah, I'm just looking forward to winning the fight. I'm not worried about titles just yet. I've got to worry about Lorenz Larkin and then we'll move forward. Let's worry about this fight, that's all.
Matt Bishop: They announced this show about four weeks out. Did you know about this fight before they announced it? Did you get into training earlier than that or were you just training all the time and then you implemented something for Lorenz?
Muhammed Lawal: Man, let me tell you something. I don't think anybody knew. When we found out, it was like a month out. I was training with Lyoto. I thought the fight would be late January, early February. No one knew. Fuck it. Luke Rockhold had Keith Jardine on January 7th.
Matt Bishop: What are the two or three biggest things you have to do in this fight to come out with a victory?
Muhammed Lawal: I've got to keep my hands up, throw a stiff jab and keep pressure on him.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Lawal stand with Larkin as long as he says? Do you see any parallels between his fight and Ovince St. Preux vs. Gegard Mousasi?