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Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal: ‘My slowest is faster than Whitehead’s fastest’

King MoIt’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 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.

  • Angry Mike says:

    His quietest is louder than Whitehead’s loudest.

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    I think this guy will go places because he is around top class BJJ guys can wrestle and is able to fight in japan as well as USA and with a personality like his he will earn a lot of fans.
    Whitehead is no pushover and is an appropriate fighter to be facing at this stage in his career.
    Wow whitehead is 250! cutting 45 pds would be a harder task than fighting Lawal so I can see the logic in not wanting to.

    P.S. Pleased you didn’t imply that he wanted to or was going to go to the UFC first of all and 2nd of all pleased that you didn’t suggest a list of UFC opponents as a possibility for him to face. Just refreshing is all. I know they have 90% of the worlds best 205ers but I was relieved it didn’t go in that direction.

  • Ray Pist says:

    I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again, this guy IS THE TOP 205 PROSPECT…and this is how I see his fight path going, or at least I hope to see it go.

    Beats whitehead, fights Sokodju…beats Sokodju fights Babalu…beats babalu fights the winner of Hendo vs Mousassi

    Personally I think Mo runs through Mousassi but has a VERY VERY difficult time with hendo…just a style type thing….I think he runs through sokodju and babalu as well…he just has the style that is going to F those two up.

    UFC made a large mistake in passing up MO, I just don’t see too many people at LHW having the wrestling that he has, he has great GnP…and I mean it all depends on how his BJJ game goes, and his standup progresses, but I see this guy as a fast learner and very athletic, and you have to be to have the wrestling credentials and accomplishments he has.

    Also…I think MO should solely focus on 205…not even consider Fedor….and go to Russia and train with the Russian…I think the Sambo would do him wonders….and the wrestling would do Fedor wonders. Fedor’s one weakness (and although a weekness he has always beat them) is american style wrestling, he get’s into bad positions, always overcomes them, but I can’t imagine he wouldn’t rather just not get into them…I think they would do great for one another

  • FightFan313 says:

    Looking at the fights he has I would say that this guy is still coming up and needs to fight and dominate more and more big names b4 getting into the UFC. ..granted, he fought Travis Wiuff but, Travis is not top comp. Which is why Travis is not in the UFC or any of the other top Orgs. Mike Whitehead is just a guy that Muhammed needs to run over. If he does that and a few more I will get excited about this guy. He fights at heavy weight and light heavy, the UFC heavy class is far to stacked for this guy at this time in my mind so is the light heavy because he goes to the third round against the light heavy weights and one Middle weight that are not UFC level or any other top Orgs = quickness gives this guy problems. A few more fights.. just a few more top name fights.

  • cocoonofhorror says:

    LMAO @ anyone “running through” Mousasi. at this stage in their careers Mousasi would absolutely wreck Mo, and im a Mo fan….

  • Angry Mike says:

    Mo has all kinds of potential, but I agree with cocoonofhorror. Mousasi is more dangerous in all aspects of his game–striking and submissions than Mo right now.

  • KTru says:

    Lawal is an in-your-face personality, who in my opinion would not get all the publicity if he never told us how great he is.

    Granted he has talent and potential as any up-and-coming undefeated fighter would have.

    I am just not sold yet until he beats a “named” fighter. He is doing this the proper way by slowly progressing to top tier fights. Whitehead is another step, but is still not a great fighter by any means. “Solid” is what I would describe Whitehead, and if Lawal wins will be on the brink to fight that “named” fighter.

  • KTru says:

    I did not recognize Ray’s post since he found out how to use lower case letters. Now I am not sure if I can believe in the intensity of his post

  • FightFan313 says:

    ahh. .come guys. you may not like the way I come off on this

    FightFan313: Looking at the fights he has I would say that this guy is still coming up and needs to fight and dominate more and more big names b4 getting into the UFC. ..granted, he fought Travis Wiuff but, Travis is not top comp. Which is why Travis is not in the UFC or any of the other top Orgs. Mike Whitehead is just a guy that Muhammed needs to run over. If he does that and a few more I will get excited about this guy. He fights at heavy weight and light heavy, the UFC heavy class is far to stacked for this guy at this time in my mind so is the light heavy because he goes to the third round against the light heavy weights and one Middle weight that are not UFC level or any other top Orgs = quickness gives this guy problems. A few more fights.. just a few more top name fights.

    ahh. .come guys. 5 negs.. you know its way to to early to Jock Ride this dude

  • bigbadjohn says:

    everytime I see this guy I think “BK – have it your way”. anyone else?

  • Ray Pist says:

    I just think he has the best wrestling credentials in all of MMA, beat pretty much everyone on the US olympic team, and he would have the style for Mousassi…I’m not talking tomorrow, i’m talking after he gets past whitehead, sokodju, and babalu, that is a years time.

    I just think he would take Mousassi down at will and either stop him with GnP or grind out a decision….the same way I think hendo would to Mousassi….wrestlers will pose the man a problem…just like a top notch wrestler will pose shogun and lyoto problems in the UFC.

  • Beau Fury says:

    I think his first fight should be against Rampage Jackson when he gets to the UFC!!! They hate each other!!! Oh and who wouldn’t want to see Mo v. Bones Jones!!! Now that would be a good match!!! Anyone else?

  • Ray Pist says:

    I don’t think he needs to go to the ufc…strikeforce is probably the right place for him for the next few years at least, maybe longer depends on how strikeforce progresses.

    who knows…maybe fighters will like their non restrictive contracts and more top names will sign

  • Dufresne says:

    I agree that Mousasi would beat Mo right now, but I don’t think he would run over him as easily as it might look at first. In his last fight he actually seemed to have a few issues with Sokoudjou’s power and wrestling and I would say that King Mo has more power and better wrestling.
    However, if the fight were to happen now I see it ending the same way Mousasi ended the Sokoudjou fight; with GnP or possibly a submission.


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