Bellator Heavyweight ‘King Mo’ insight into MMA, Fighting in Ireland, American Fans and Wrestling
Heavyweight fighter Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (19-5-1) was in Dublin during the week promoting his upcoming headline fight against Satoshi Ishii (14-6-1) at Bellator 169 in the 3 Arena on 16th December.
An MMA veteran, the American is a former Strikeforce Light-Heavyweight Champion and current Rizin Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion. He’s fought around the globe and even had a stint as a professional wrestler with Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling.
At Tuesday’s press conference he was in a subdued mood something he later acknowledged was because Ishii could not speak English but he enjoyed watching the co-main event fighters Gallagher and Taylor trash talk on stage.
Speaking to Fightstore Media, he said, “We’re both martial artists, I come from wrestling and he’s from judo. But I was never a true martial artist as in the mentality but I was competitive. He’s a martial artist that’s competitive. He’s all about honour and respect whereas I’m all about getting paid to whoop ass.
“When money changes hands there ain’t no respect. If we fought for respect then we’d be like ‘keep your money’. With true respect there’s no money.”
Witnessing James Gallagher and Anthony Taylor mock each other was a highlight for King Mo, he believes that characters like that are great for MMA.
“MMA needs personality. If we just fight, people will watch but they won’t take any notice of us. If I do what James Gallagher and Anthony Taylor are doing with the trash talk and then they go in there and have an awesome back and forth battle, the anticipation grows.
“That means people will be willing to pay more; it’s a draw and demand. But if they were friendly to each other nobody would care. It builds peoples excitement seeing them go at each other.
“It’s been that way but when I was doing it years ago people said it was disrespectful. This ain’t martial arts it’s called mixed martial arts. In true martial arts you do it for the love of your art or discipline. You don’t get paid, you do it for a belt, trophy or ribbon. There’s no cheques, press conferences or weigh-ins. We’re here to entertain you guys,” he said.
December 16th will mark the first time King Mo has fought in Ireland and he spoke positively about the fighting culture on the island.
“I wish it was warm for one. Two, I’ve been to a lot of different fight areas around the world. Las Vegas, San Jose, Dagastan or Chechnya, Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Belarus and Japan they’re all combat areas. This is not much different, this is a fighting country. It’s not much different than going to Dagastan. All these areas fight to prove a point, they all share the same principles. There ain’t no guns, it’s one-to-one combat.”
He spoke at length about the rich boxing traditions and compared Ireland to parts of Russia which are known for producing top quality fighters.
“I like the culture. Boxing put Ireland on the map. You got guys like the Irish Mickey Ward, lots of people in the US claim to be Irish. Ireland is known for tough guys. That’s why Conor McGregor has such a big following state side. It’s the best part of the fight culture,” he said.
Lawal notices the way Irish fans get behind their fighters but gives a blunt response when asked if the American fans would ever do the same.
“It’ll never happen in America, we’re too divided. In Ireland I notice the sense of pride. We have a sense of pride when bad events happen like 9/11. Once 9/11 hit the Ku Klux Klan were holding hands with the Black Panthers.
“I fought Gegard Mousasi in Tennessee for instance where I grew up. We’re outside Nashville and guess who was booed going to the cage…me! He was cheered and I saw Armenia flags waving in Nashville, Tennessee.”
But the lack of support does not have any effect on the fighter, he’s not bothered either way.
“Man, f**k them! They don’t get behind their own people. American fans can be fair weather. The only time they support their own is during the Olympics, American Football, Basketball or Baseball. But never in MMA. We’re a true melting pot so people want to see something which is different,” he exclaims.
The American Top Team fighter comes from a background in wrestling and boxing. He spars with boxers such as Alan Greene, undefeated heavyweight prospect Trevor Bryant and US Olympian and undefeated Cruiserweight prospect Michael ‘The Bounty Hunter’ Hunter.
He attended a pro wrestling school in Ohio Valley; the same one which produced starts like John Cena, CM Punk and a certain Brock Lesnar.
He worked briefly for TNA but admits that ‘scheduling never worked out’. The heavyweight also gave an insight into the world of a pro wrestler.
“If you see guys like Kurt Angle they’re struggling to walk around because they’re in so much pain. The thing is as I fighter I can take blows but I’m also able to give them. In pro wrestling you’re almost like a stunt man. You’re getting thrown around the ring, over the ring, hit with a chair in the back and after a while it takes its toll.”
King Mo is relishing the opportunity of fighting in front of an Irish crowd and expects to pick up another victory against Ishii at the 3 Arena on December 16th.