Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal has created quite a buzz since his arrival in the sport just a few months ago and for good reason. The former Division I All-American wrestler from Oklahoma State brings a mixture of athleticism and charisma to mixed martial arts that is reminiscent to the showmanship sometimes seen in professional wrestling. Combined with the fact that the 27-year old Tennessee native has shown a natural talent for inflicting serious damage upon much more experienced opposition, Lawal is grabbing a lot more attention heading into his fight with Yukiya Naito at Sengoku 7 than most fighters do with only two fights under their belt.
The man popularly referred to as “King Mo” exploded onto the scene back in September when he stunned the heavy favorite Travis Wiuff with a superman punch in the very first round and pounced on him to secure the upset victory. In just his very first fight Lawal set a precedent of what was to come when he faced off with a man over 60 fights his elder. In only his third bout, Lawal will have faced opponents that have been in a combined total of over a hundred fights.
The rising star told FiveOuncesOfPain.com in an exclusive interview that he has never been one to give another man’s record much thought. Every fight is a new fight.
Lawal’s larger than life personality and flamboyant ring entrances have all the ingredients that Japanese mixed martial arts have come to love over the years and it seems as if King Mo has found his home for now. Already being embraced by the Japanese fans on a wide scale, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for this athlete/entertainer in the “Land of the Rising Sun.”
Cory Brady: It doesn’t seem like you’re the type of guy that like to ease into things. Your debut was against a guy that had about 60 fights, then in your second fight you went up against a guy with 15 fights and now this guy has about twenty fights. Do records not impress you?
Mo Lawal: Nope. Here’s the thing, each fight is a new fight. Each fight against a new guy is kind of like a debut. I’ve never fought anyone like him and he’s never fought anyone like me so coming into it we’re both 0-0. That’s how I see it. Every fight is a new fight.
Cory Brady: What do you know about your opponent Yukiya Naito?
Mo Lawal: Well, just from my intuition from being an athlete, I looked at his last six opponents and only two of them have had more than ten fights. The rest of them just weren’t that experienced. There was a Brazilian dude that was 1-1 and a dude from Mongolia that was 0-1. So I don’t know who he’s been fighting. I think he’s been fighting people that are lower level than who I’ve been fighting.
Cory Brady: Have you been able to study any tape on him?
Mo Lawal: I haven’t seen any recent footage on him but he only has two fights to study on me. Those two fights will show him a few things but I have a lot more in my arsenal then what he would be able to see in just those two fights.
Cory Brady: How are you feeling physically going into your fight with Naito?
Mo Lawal: I feel great. I feel like I possess the skills that are necessary to beat this dude.
Cory Brady: Who are some of the key guys that have helped you prepare for this fight?
Mo Lawal: All kinds of different people. I gym hop. I’m a gym hopper. You can find me at different gym’s here and there. I worked with Benji Radach, Mayhem Miller, Dean Lister, and Ryan Parsons. The list just goes on and on. I was down in Brazil training for a couple of weeks. That was really cool.
Cory Brady: Who did you train with in Brazil?
Mo Lawal: Vitor Belfort has been helping me. I’ve also been training a lot with Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira and Junior dos Santos.
Cory Brady: How do you visualize this fight ending?
Mo Lawal: With me getting my hand raised. I just want to go out there and give it all I got because anything can happen. In my first fight with Travis Wiuff, I didn’t know I was going to knock him out. I just figured I would go out there and bang with him and take him down a bit to keep him guessing but I ended up hitting him with the superman punch. In the fight with Fabio Silva I didn’t know I would end up ground and pounding him just like that. It just happened. I figured I was going to stop him in the first round with the way I was hitting him. You never know. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort to make sure that I come out of this fight with the W. I’m predicting a win and that’s all I can predict.
Cory Brady: What made you decide on a career in mixed martial arts?
Mo Lawal: I’m just a fighter. I’ve always had to fight for everything. I love the competition and the combat. It definitely beats working at a normal job. When I was young and I saw the UFC it was always my dream to become a professional fighter. I used to love to fight when I was young and I saw the UFC pop up and I was hoping that the sport would stick around.
Cory Brady: Do you feel like top level wrestlers coming into the sport have a certain advantage?
Mo Lawal: I think that the top level athletes are the future of mixed martial arts. Guys like Damian Maia, who’s a world class jiu-jitsu athlete or my boy Kenny Florian, “Pimpin’ Ken.” Kenny was a soccer player and turned into a world class fighter. The guy’s that have a world class background in something and build onto it with all of the stuff they have to learn in MMA, those are the guys that will be successful. If you were just a world class wrestler but didn’t bother to learn anything about footwork or checking kicks or submission defense, you’re still getting tapped out or knocked out. One thing about mixed martial arts is that you have to learn the whole game but you have to stay true to your original discipline. The fighter’s that are just really good at one thing have nothing to fall back on when they get hurt. With me, I’m going to keep my strong wrestling base but I’m going to work on my stand up and I’m going to keep everything growing strong. My wrestling will always be better than my stand up or my jiu-jitsu. My wrestling will always be my base that I can fall back on.
Cory Brady: Would you like to fight in the United States at some point?
Mo Lawal: I would love to fight in the states but right now Japan is my home. I love Japan. I’m good where I’m at for right now. I’ll take things as things as they come but Japan is my home for right now.
Cory Brady: I know you rock the robe and crown into the ring. Where did the “King Mo” persona come from?
Mo Lawal: I like to have fun and I’m always the king of the party. I like the females and I like extravagant things. I like to live lavish. I like to show my personality. I’m not trying to be some square that just walks to the ring. I’m not saying that Fedor is a square but I’m not Fedor. In America if you do something that makes you stand out they can look at you kind of different, they don’t like that. They can kind of look at you as just stupid or as someone that just wants attention. They like the Fedor type stuff but that’s not me. Not everybody can be a role model. It might work for Fedor but it doesn’t work for me.
Cory Brady: Do you have a weight class?
Mo Lawal: I have three weight classes. Eventually, if I can get big enough I would love to fight at heavyweight and if not that then 205 and if not that then 185. I just love challenges. I love to prove the nay sayers wrong. That’s what I love to do. I love being the underdog because I’ve been the underdog my whole life.
Cory Brady: What does the future hold for “King Mo?”
Mo Lawal: You can just expect me to be “King Mo” and just go out there and give it all I’ve got in the ring. Expect to see me dancing. that’s one thing for sure. You will see me dancing. If you don’t see me dancing it’s probably because my foot’s broke or I’m dead.
Cory Brady: Is there anyone you would like to thank?
Mo Lawal: I just want to thank anyone that knows me. I want to tell everyone to go see that movie ‘Mall Cop’ with Kevin James and I would like to tell Jason Ellis, in Mall Cop, to get these balls.