Muhammed Lawal is midway through his first year of fighting inside the Bellator mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, and it has been a series of highs and lows thus far for the former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion.
"King Mo" returns to action tonight (July 31, 2013), in the promotion's summer series 205-pound tournament final against Jacob Noe at Bellator 97 from the Santa Ana Star Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a little over a month after his highlight-reel knockout win over Seth Petruzelli (see it here).
However, it was his shocking knockout loss to Emanuel Newton by way of spinning back-fist (GIF) in the season eight semifinals that would make bigger headlines. Partly because it came not long after his new employers gave him a grandiose entrance fit with a TNA wrestling contract, a featured one-hour special on Spike TV and an immediate spot in the division tournament (details here).
Now, just hours before he steps back into the cage, looking to notch his second consecutive win for the first time since capturing the title in 2010, Lawal sits down with MMAmania.com interview tag-team extraordinaires, Michael Stets and Christopher Tuttle.
Getting the elephant out of the room early was priority number one. So, what did "King Mo" learn from his upset loss to Newton?
"I didn't learn nothing from the Newton loss, really," Lawal said almost defiantly. "I just got caught. Newton didn't do anything. He wasn't landing anything, he was acting scared. He caught me when I was loading up. When the rematch happens, I'm going to smash him. I can see in his eyes he isn't confident. It will be an easy fight, he isn't that good. He is cocky, he got lucky.'
The part-time TNA wrestler said he is "only focused on MMA right now," and even though the summer series tournament featured four fighters, along with a quicker route to face Attila Vegh for the title, he would have been fine with a longer path to get there.
"I've got no problem with 8-man, 12-man, 16-man, that's when you get paid more," Lawal said. "You get more checks. So, if it was an 8-man, it would be no different. I like to get paid."
The former Oklahoma State Cowboy would certainly enjoy the $100,000 he will receive should he defeat Noe. Six out of the seven fights in Bellator -- between the two fighters -- have ended in the first round. Lawal said he is prepared to go to the judges if needed.
"If it ends in one, I'm cool. If it ends in two, I'm cool. If it goes to all three, even better," a cavalier Lawal stated. "I train to go five, so it makes no difference to me."
"I have seen everything I can possibly see in MMA," he added. "I am not worried about this dude. He isn't world class anything. Whatever he gives me, that's how I will fight, I don't force anything, I just take what's given. He's a tough guy, but I will beat him.'
The 2-1 Bellator light heavyweight leaves the impression there isn't much that bothers him. A good example of that is Bellator's most recent high-profile acquisition -- and former rival -- Quinton Jackson. Some experts thought that would be trouble in the making. While Lawal wouldn't rule out a potential match-up, he had nothing bad to say about the former UFC champion.
"I think it's great. I'm glad he came to Bellator," Lawal said. "I'm glad he came to TNA. As far as fighting him, I'm open to it. Whatever the company wants with me and 'Rampage' is what will happen. First and foremost though, we need to get the tag team belts in TNA."
And if the rumored pay-per-view (PPV) card featuring a fight between Jackson and Roy Jones Jr. is green lit?
"If it comes down to it and I can be, yeah, I'd like to be part of it," Lawal said.
Overall "King Mo" says he's "happy" being in Bellator. "I'm cool with being here," he admitted. "I'm glad to carry the company. I'm glad to fight for Bellator. It isn't about the money. I love the money, but I have to be able to look myself in the mirror and be okay with myself. Never have I said I want to be UFC champ. I have never said that. If anything, I said I wanted to be a PRIDE champion."
Lawal insists he's been training "harder than ever" with his two "homeboys" in Las Vegas: Heavyweights Ryan Martinez and newly-resigned UFC fan favorite, Roy Nelson. Can they help the former former three-time U.S. Senior National Wrestling Champion reach the top of the Bellator mountain?