Bellator 199: “Bader vs. King Mo” takes place at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., this Saturday night (May 12, 2018), featuring a main event between Ryan Bader (24-5) against Muhammed Lawal (21-6, 1 NC) in the final fight in the opening round of the promotion’s Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament.
This bout was originally scheduled for Bellator 180 in June 2017 before the open-weight grand prix event was ever even announced. After Lawal was forced out with an injury, Bader faced — and defeated — Phil Davis instead, taking his Bellator Light Heavyweight title in the process. It’s a new year and a new fight now with a whole lot more for both men at stake. For Lawal, in particular, the benefits of a win are tremendous — he’d advance to a second round fight with Matt Mitrione and have instant credibility to get a world title shot against Bader in a rematch where the champion would already know “King Mo” had his number once before.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with “King Mo” about the unique opportunity ahead of him at SAP Center on Saturday night, which won’t feel real for Lawal until the cage door closes.
“I guess I’ll feel good once it happens, you know what I’m saying? I’m just waiting for [fight] week to hurry up and come — and pass.”
In truth, Lawal is so anxious for this fight to come he couldn’t care less whether it’s the Heavyweight Grand Prix, Light Heavyweight ... or any weight. He just wants to scrap.
“To be honest with you it’s (just) a fight. Like people like to be — I don’t give a damn who I’m fighting, man. A fight’s a fight, man. It can be Bader, it can be Fedor, it can be whoever man. I’m gonna train hard, I’m gonna train smart, I’m gonna come whup that ass.”
Even though a “fight’s a fight” there’s a little extra hot sauce on this one since beating Bader could also earn Lawal a future 205-pound title shot. In Mo’s mind, though, why wait and do it again later?
“Like if I beat him at walk around weight, why should I even go down? Once I beat Bader they should go ahead and just — he should forfeit the title to me anyway.”
Lawal is adamant on the subject of weight, even going so far as to claim he never cuts weight.
“I never cut weight. Even when I fight 205, I never cut weight. (*scoffs*) Like I just show up man! Look, when I fought Cro Cop, I weighed 210. When I fought Quinton Jackson, I weighed 210. When I fought Ishii, I weighed 210, man, so like ... like making weight, I don’t care. Weight don’t mean nothing, man. He can be (as) big as he wants. When the cage closes, all that is forgotten about.”
On paper, it’s a battle between two Division I All-American wrestlers — Lawal at Oklahoma State and Bader at Arizona State. “King Mo” couldn’t care less — he crumpled up that paper and threw it away.
“It’s a fight, so I’m gonna go out there and punch him in his mouth. How should I respond? If he backs up, like yo I’ll punch him in his mouth. If he comes forward, I’m gonna punch more (and) make his ass back up. And if he wants to make it a wrestling match, we can make it a wrestling match, man. Like everybody’s like ... it’s a fight you, know what I’m saying? All we can do is see what happens when the cage closes.”
Some readers may be reminded of the “Rampage vs. King Mo” fight last year by Lawal’s demeanor, only this time around Lawal isn’t cracking any jokes. According to Lawal, all fights feel the same way.
“I’ve always had that feeling. Real fighters do whatever it takes to win. So it can be an ugly fight, it can be a pretty fight, it can be a fast fight, it can be a long fight. A fight’s a fight, man.”
One fight that’s not “a fight,” though, is Bellator 154 at the same venue in San Jose. To this day, Lawal is still convinced that he beat Phil Davis in that main event.
“Everybody knows I won, you know what I’m saying? Phil Davis got booed, you know what I’m saying? Everybody at ringside had me winning, media had me winning ... you know what I’m saying? Like — I don’t know what the judges were looking at. Phil didn’t do nothing in the third round (and) I won the first two rounds.”
There may be a little poetic justice for “King Mo” to return to the same venue almost three years to the day if he can go out there and blast his way through Bader — or at least put on a better show than Lawal thinks Davis and Bader put on in MSG.
“The only people that lost in that fight between Phil Davis and Ryan Bader was the fans! Would you watch that fight again? Would you watch them fight for that third time? You saw the first one they fought. Okay. They showed each other too much respect. Which I UNDERSTAND, they’re both high level, but I never saw Bader be like, ‘You know what? Fuck it, I’m gonna come forward and swing.’ I never saw Phil go ‘You know what? I’m just gonna punch his ass in the mouth, fuck it.’ You know what I’m saying? They was like, ‘Okay, he hits hard, I’m gonna be cautious. I’m gonna watch out for that takedown, cautious.’”
The bottom line for Lawal is that he’s not going to be cautious in the “Shark Tank” this weekend, nor when it comes to his fight career in general.
“If I could fight every month I would, but injuries prevent that and the people that are available to fight prevent that. I’m just cool with winning this tournament, man. It doesn’t matter to me ... just keep me busy.”
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal will be plenty busy with Ryan “Darth” Bader on Saturday night.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Bader vs. King Mo” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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