Some say that you’ve really arrived in this sport when you’re better known by your nickname than your given name. This is especially true of Muhammed Lawal, better known to fight fans as King Mo.

With his high-profile rivalries with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and the Bellator champion “The Hard Core Kid” Emanuel Newton, Lawal is a valuable asset to Bellator MMA. His personality, his ability to sell a fight, his knockout power and his ability to win the fight wherever it goes all add up to one very important thing for Bellator: King Mo might just be the biggest draw in MMA not currently signed with the UFC.

I had the chance to talk to King Mo this week about his early career and his upcoming fight at Saturday at Bellator 131: Tito vs. Bonnar. King Mo was slated to face Tom DeBlass, but at the beginning of the month, it was revealed that DeBlass had suffered a severe cut during training and had pulled out of the fight. Joe Vedepo has stepped in on short notice as DeBlass’ replacement and will fight Lawal on November 15th.

Kevin Sampson: Everything started with wrestling. You started in the middle of high school, but you were obviously very good at it. What is the story behind all of that? How did it happen?

Muhammed Lawal:  I was just doing football. We missed tackles in a few football games. My coach said to the defense, “Hey you need better defense. Need to do wrestling. Bring the attack. The whole defense needs to do wrestling, work on their tackling.” And I was like, “Wrestling? When?” And he was said, “In two weeks, come in the gym at 6:00 in the morning and wrestle.” And I was like, “Alright cool, whatever.” I go there, going for stuff. Going for technique. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew it was hot as hell in the room. But there was this time the coach was like, “Go live.” The guy I’m wrestling with is a varsity guy and I’m beating him.”

That was the moment when Lawal knew he had found his sport.

Muhammed Lawal: That was where I started loving the sport. It was a one-on-one sport. It wasn’t like it was teams. You only blame yourself for a loss. That’s what I liked. It was combat.

Lawal also mentioned the lack of attention given to wrestling in his high school in Texas high school athletics.

Muhammed Lawal: Texas was all about football. At the state [wrestling] championship there was only 200 fans. Texas was football. It was about basketball, track and field, baseball. Every other sport but wrestling.

Kevin Sampson: You’ve accomplished a lot of great things in wrestling. I’m sure your trophy case is probably pretty huge. Yet you’re not one of those guys who started out at five years old. You weren’t going to camps all over the country for years and years growing up. You just picked it up in high school and out of nowhere you were great at it.

 Muhammed Lawal: I am a notch below great. Great is like John Smith  and Kevin Jackson. I am a notch below great. I’m pretty good.

Kevin Sampson: Who would you say is your biggest hero?

Muhammed Lawal: My mom. She raised me all by herself, she did a lot by herself with no help, me and my brothers and sisters, we all have college degrees, we all played college sports.

Kevin Sampson: You said all of you have degrees. How many brothers and sisters is that?

Muhammed Lawal: There are three of us that have them (degrees), I have a half-brother from another dad. He is in high school. He’s extremely smart. Honors classes, IB classes. My mom did it all by herself, she had no help.

Kevin Sampson: What about sports? Who are your greatest sports heroes?

Muhammed Lawal: Greatest hero in sports? Walter Payton, Kevin Jackson, John Smith, Ali, Larry Holmes, Emanuel Augustus,  Rick Flair, Booker T,  Sting, “Diamond” Dallas Page. I have so many I could name. I watch a lot of sports, I will stop there because there are so many I can’t think of them all right now. I could do so many I can’t even think of them.

Kevin Sampson: How did you go from wrestling to MMA?

Muhammed Lawal: I was a fan of MMA, and thought it was entertaining and I was entertained and it’s just the money you know. It’s like, you get paid to fight, isn’t that a great job?

Kevin Sampson: I guess the wrestling didn’t pay so well?

Muhammed Lawal: Well it did, it did pay alright, but I was there, you had to do a lot to get paid. Like go overseas, go to tournaments. Beat the Russians in their own country. It was tough because a lot of people try to cheat you. It happens.

Kevin Sampson: What do you think of the removal of wrestling from the Olympics? Seems pretty rude to me.

Muhammed Lawal: The thing about nixing wrestling from the Olympics, the thing they need to nix is leadership. Because the leadership at the time was crooked. It still is crooked, you know what I’m saying? Back then the person who ran wrestling had never wrestled in his life. Wrestling back then was real bad.

Lawal debuted in MMA when he fought Travis Wiuff at World Victory Road Presents: Sengoku 5. At that time, Wiuff a seasoned veteran in MMA with 54 wins and 11 losses. It can rightly be said that Muhammed Lawal was thrown straight into the deep end of the proverbial MMA swimming pool from day one. And King Mo knocked Wiuff out in just 2:11 in the first round.

Kevin Sampson: Your first MMA fight of record is Travis Wiuff. Pretty impressive since you knocked him out in the first round. Was that your first MMA fight ever or did you do any amateur fights before that?

Muhammed Lawal: I never did amateur nothing.

Kevin Sampson: So you just jumped straight in?

Muhammed Lawal: Yeah

Kevin Sampson: You have an upcoming fight against Joe Vedepo on November 15th. It’s often the fights that you’re supposed to win that are the most dangerous. What are you doing to avoid underestimating Joe Vedepo?

Muhammed Lawal: I don’t believe you can overlook any fight. You got to need to win when it happens. All I can think of is that I want that win. You aren’t guaranteed a win for any fight.  You can’t assume nothing.

Kevin Sampson: It was a pleasure talking to you and good luck on the 15th.

Muhammed Lawal: Thanks bro, appreciate it.

About The Author

Kevin Sampson
Staff Writer

Ever since UFC 1, Mixed Martial Arts became my passion. I also love the old American favorites: Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey and Boxing. But to me, Mixed Martial Arts is the purest form of athletic competition that there can ever be while still remaining legal. No ball, no goalie, no basket. Just raw ability vs raw ability. Everyone should be doing what they love, and I love writing about sports, especially mixed martial arts. I've been writing about my favorite sport for about 5 years now. I live with my wife, son and daughter about two hours west of Chicago. I work in IT in a major corporation's enterprise data center.