It’s not hard to see why Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal is widely touted as one of the sport’s fastest rising prospects with all of the early indications of a future champion. A freestyle wrestler of the highest caliber in his prime that has made the transition to the brutal world of mixed martial arts look easy, Lawal accomplished the unheard of in his first professional bout, stopping a veteran of over sixty fights riding a nine fight win streak with ease.
Since the first round beating Mo put on Travis Wiuff during Sengoku VI, Lawal has gone on to put together an unblemished record of 5-0 while rocking what is disputedy the game’s best ring entrance prior to every beatdown served up.
It was just over a year ago when Mo caught my attention, and since that time a series of interviews and off the record conversations have served to deepen my belief that Lawal will have a tremendous impact on whichever weight class he chooses to compete at for as long as he sees fit.
Last night FiveOuncesofPain.com had the chance to catch up with Mo to gather his thoughts on his highly anticipated Strikeforce debut against the always dangerous Mike Whitehead and a few other topics, but staying true to form, the “interview” I was supposed to conduct with Mo turned into more of a conversation. A conversation that included topics such as the current Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi, Dan Henderson and much more.
FiveOuncesofPain: So what made you sign with Strikeforce. I know the UFC kind of had you on their radar as well, but what made you make the ultimate decision to take the road you did?
King Mo: I like to stay busy and I can stay busier with Strikeforce. Plus they had that open contract. It just made more business sense to me because if you’re fighting with the UFC, you’re fighting three times a year, you know, if that. If you’re lucky.
FiveOuncesofPain: And this way I guess you could still fight in Japan. Are you still planning on fighting for Sengoku again at all in the future?
King Mo: Yeah, I’m going to fight somewhere in Japan, whether it’s Sengoku or DREAM. I just want to stay busy because I need fights. I’m only 5-0, but a lot of people look at me like I’m a veteran or something (laughs). You know what I’m saying? I’ve only had five fights.
FiveOuncesofPain: I know man, it’s only really been about a year since you’ve even been training. When was your first fight with Travis Wiuff? It was in September right?
King Mo: September 30th was my first fight, so it’s been about a year and two months.
FiveOuncesofPain: So what are your thoughts on Mike Whitehead and what he’s going to bring to the table on December 19th?
King Mo: He’s solid. He’s a solid veteran, He’s solid pretty much everywhere and doesn’t make many mistakes. He used to wrestle at heavyweight back in college. I was wrestling freestyle at the time so I didn’t know him, but I knew of him.
FiveOuncesofPain: Yeah for sure. That’s the thing with Mike; He’s been around for a while, and he’s fought a bunch of tough dudes, but it doesn’t seem like he’s really spectacular in any single area.
King Mo: Yeah, and the thing is that we’re fighting at heavyweight because he didn’t want to make the cut to 205. He’s like 245 or 250 right now. I’ll fight him anywhere. He wanted to fight at heavyweight, I’m like… whatever.
FiveOuncesofPain: Alright, well we know he’s a wrestler and he has decent striking, but you have to feel like you’re going to have the edge in the wrestling department if it goes there.
King Mo: Yeah, yeah, I feel like I’m better, but I don’t think I’m going to have to use my wrestling. If I see the opportunity to use it though, I’m going to use it. I’m going to take whatever he gives me because he’s a solid guy. I’m not going to force anything. Fighting isn’t about forcing it, you just take what they give you.
FiveOuncesofPain: Oh, for sure. Especially against a guy as tested and seasoned as a Mike Whitehead. He’s been in there with some of the best fighters in the sport, he’s 15-1 in his last sixteen, and he’s coming off of a win over Kevin Randleman. He’s legit, no question.
King Mo: Yeah, but the thing is that a lot of people are saying, “Why isn’t Mo fighting someone that’s legit?”, and I’m thinking, ‘Who has Jon Jones fought that was legit besides Matt Hamill?’. You look at GSP and who he fought in his first few fights. A lot of people just don’t understand how the fight game goes, and how someone needs time to develop properly.
FiveOuncesofPain: Right, and this is your first real fight back coming off of a serious knee injury. A serious knee injury. The Mark Kerr fight was what it was, which was a test bout to some extent, but this is a pretty serious opponent to be taking off of the injury in my opinion. Like I said before, Mike has a record of 15-1 in his last sixteen where he’s beaten respectable fighters like Zak Jensen, Krzysztof Soszynski and Kevin Randleman in the mix, he has over forty fights, and you have, what, five fights over the last year. Of course you’re fight with Kerr wasn’t even really a fight; You scooped him up, dumped him on his head and punched his face. Whitehead is for real and I’m sure you’re expecting for this one to go a couple rounds at least. Mike’s a tough guy, and if you beat him you’re going to have to beat him up a bit first.
King Mo: I’m going to have to beat him up. You know how I see it, right. I beat Whitehead and people are going to be like, “Oh, Whitehead… he wasn’t even that good, you know…. Mike’s not even in the top ten”. Then I beat [Gegard] Mousasi and it’s like, “Oh, Mousasi was overrated…. this and that”. You know, that’s all I feel like I’m going to get right now. I won’t get any credit until I’m in the UFC, and even then people will probably find reasons not to give me credit for anything anyways, you know what I’m saying?
FiveOuncesofPain: But if you beat Whitehead, people are going to have to give you a certain amount of credit. They’re not going to start saying that you are without a doubt the future of the sport with an impressive win over Whitehead, but they’re going to have to respect you. Anyone that follows the sport closely know that Mike is no joke, but the thing with that is: You have to know from Strikeforce’s position with their current roster, if you beat Mike Whitehead, that’s going to be the last Mike Whitehead you’re going to face from here on out. I’d expect a fight with someone like Bobby Southworth, Babalu or Mousasi to be on the near horizon for you.
King Mo: If you compared Mike Whitehead to Travis Wiuff, Travis had much more impressive wins than Whitehead when I fought him. Whitehead has Randleman and Soszynski.
FiveOuncesofPain: Oh yeah, I mean it’s not like the guy hasn’t lost before, but one thing that’s for sure is that Mike is just a tough son of a b****. You just know you’re going to be in for a fight.
King Mo: The one thing with him is his conditioning though. He’ll do good early in fights, but then he gasses. I feel like my slowest is faster than Whitehead’s fastest.
FiveOuncesofPain: I know you have plans of competing at light heavyweight in the future so I have to ask: What are your thoughts on Gegard Mousasi. A lot of people are touting him as the next big thing. I feel like your wrestling could possibly present him some problems….
King Mo: On top of that, he’s been fighting for so long; What has really changed in his game? If you watch his fights from back then and now, what’s changed? I just don’t think he’s that powerful. I don’t think he has that much power, and I don’t think he’s that strong. I don’t think his conditioning is all that great either.
FiveOuncesofPain: I’ve got to ask you about Dan Henderson. What are your thoughts on the possibility of him winding up with Strikeforce?
King Mo: That’s would be great if he came over to Strikeforce. He’s a great fighter and he carries a big name, so I think it would be great if he came to Strikeforce.
FiveOuncesofPain: Is that someone you’re going to want to fight at some point? I mean he’s a big name and that’s what it’s all about right? Eventually of course…
King Mo: Yeah eventually. I like Dan too. He’s a really cool guy, but eventually, if it made sense for the fight to happen, then yeah, that would be a good fight, and I’d take it.
FiveOuncesofPain: At the same time it seems like Strikeforce is going to have to build up their light heavyweight division a little bit because who do they have? he have Mousai, Babalu, Southworth… I think, but really it’s not even fair to you to even be considering a fight with someone like Dan Henderson at this point in your career. But I think Whitehead’s a perfect opponent for you right now. I don’t really think you want a guy you’re just going to blow through right now. I’m sur you’d rather have a tough guy in front of you so you can get some work in, test the knee out, and just kind of gauge where you’re at right now.
King Mo: Yeah, for sure.
FiveOuncesofPain: So what were your thoughts on your boy Daniel Cormier’s first performance with Strikeforce? It wasn’t anything too groundbreaking really, but at the same time I felt like it was a really solid performance against a tough guy.
King Mo: Here’s the thing with Daniel that a lot of people don’t understand. Some people are trying to compare him to Tyron Woodley, but Tyron’s had nine amateur fights, and he’s been fighting since 2005. So of course Tyron is going to look a little bit sharper right now, but Daniel had only been training for like three weeks, maybe a month up until that fight (laughs).
FiveOuncesofPain: Have you had a chance to train with him at all since that fight?
King Mo: Yeah, he’s looking better. We went down and trained with Rashad Evans and Mike Van Arsdale in Denver like two weeks ago. He’s actually going to be down here helping me out with my camp next week.
FiveOuncesofPain: Yeah I think Daniel has a really bright future ahead of him right now. Which reminds me; What is Team Thirsty and what is Team GDP. What do they stand for?
King Mo: It’s all the same. They’re both the same. GDP is Gettin Dat Paper, you know what I’m saying.
FiveOuncesofPain: Alright, that’s what I thought, and thirsty is just…
King Mo: Thirsty for that money or just whatever, you know.
FiveOuncesofPain: Cool, alright Mo, take care and good luck on the 19th.