(Mo wrote down all of his answers for this interview to prove, once more, to the Nevada State Athletic Commission that he can read and write in English.)
By Elias Cepeda
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether Muhammed Lawal is truly as carefree as he sounds or if “King Mo” just doesn’t want us to see him sweat. The former All-American wrestler and current MMA light heavyweight has been embattled recently.
After exploding onto the international fight scene in 2008 Lawal suffered a violent loss, his first, to Rafael Cavalcante in 2010. In 2011 and early 2012 he got back on the winning track, stringing together two-straight but then Lawal had his win over Lorenz Larkin overturned after he failed a post-fight drug test.
A subsequent hearing, suspension, twitter outburst where he called a Nevada State Athletic Commissioner a “bitch,” and firing from Strikeforce followed. Oh yeah, Lawal also nearly died after a staph infection.
When we ask Lawal how he’s managed to stay focused and sane throughout it all he says, “It wasn’t that big of a deal.”
“All I care about is providing for my family,” he tells CagePotato. “And MMA is a small part of what I do to make a living.”
It certainly is about to become just one of two professional athletic careers that Lawal uses to make ends meet. Since being released by Strikeforce, Lawal has signed with Bellator and Total Nonstop Action wrestling. The idea is for him to simultaneously and regularly take part in professional wrestling and pro MMA.
Lawal has two jobs now and his health back so it might be easier for him to overlook past troubles now but he also says he has no regrets.
“No, not really,” he answers bluntly when asked if he has any regrets with regards to his failed drug test and publicly insulting an athletic commissioner.
NSAC commissioner Pat Lundvall was direct and terse in questioning Lawal during the hearing over his failed drug test where he was ultimately suspended. At one point, Lundvall asked Lawal if he could read English.
It is a line of questioning that the commissioner had used in past hearing with other fighters, as she seemed to attempt to make a larger point about athletes taking responsibility for knowing what they ingest and what treatments they receive.
The college-educated Lawal, however, did not take kindly to being sarcastically asked if he could read and he took to twitter calling Lundvall a “racist bitch.”
Lawal is unrepentant and says he believes others can relate to why he had his outburst. “I said how I felt at the time,” Lawal explains.
“Think about if you were asked a similar thing, talked to in a similar way, what would you have felt? I just said what I felt at the time.”
Lawal hasn’t fought since January but his next training camp, of sorts, won’t prepare him for MMA. “King Mo” says that this month he will begin training to become a professional wrestler in the Ohio Valley Wrestling farm system.
Lawal says that he plans to take part in pro wrestling and MMA competition simultaneously and is not worried about suffering too many injuries or having his integrity as a competitive athlete called into question. He also just loves pro wrestling.
“I always loved to watch,” he says. “[Strikeforce heavyweight champion] Daniel Cormier and I used to warm up together by playing around and doing pro wrestling moves on each other.
As for the grind that professional wrestlers go through and the toll it takes on their bodies, Lawal doesn’t seem concerned. “I get injured more in training for fighting than anything. For me it makes no difference,” he maintains.
“Injuries are a part of being an athlete.”
Lawal also says that he won’t be any less of a serious competitor in MMA just because he will be taking part in scripted contests as a pro wrestler.
“In terms of credibility, a big part of pro wrestling is acting. If Denzel Washington plays a crooked cop in a movie, does it affect his credibility as a law-abiding citizen in real life?” he asks rhetorically.
“Pro wrestling is acting. It has a huge amount of athleticism in it with high flying stuff and the rest, but it is acting and people understand that.”
In fact, it’s his competitive ability to learn fast that Lawal says gives him confidence he will succeed in pro wrestling. “I always do and will do whatever I can to jump into it as quickly as possible. I study combat. I know more about wrestling, I know more about MMA and I know more about boxing than people would probably think,” he says.
“I love combat and study it. I’ll study professional wrestling in the same way and I know I’ll learn it.
Lawal says he has asked former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett, who also wrestled professionally for years in Japan, for advice. “He just told me to learn as much as I can,” Mo tells.
There’s no way someone who became a champion in college and a top international competitor in wrestling, to say nothing of becoming a major organization champion in MMA, the way Lawal has can be as indifferent as he sounds sometimes. Maybe the light heavyweight has no regrets about mistakes and perhaps he considers MMA to just be a “small part,” of his life.
Lawal still has goals, though. “I want to win the Bellator belt and I want to have some heavyweight super fights,” he says.
“In pro wrestling and fighting, I just want to always excite and entertain fans.”